Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Attitude the Same as Christ: Learning from the Kenosis

I read an article this week related to the topic at-hand: Jesus is Fully Human, from the Desiring God blog. In it, the author walks through a simple progression of concepts from the simplest to grasp to the most profound. Jesus had a human body. Jesus had human emotion. Jesus had a human mind. And finally, Jesus had a human will. While the mystery of the last statement is certainly an inviting topic for anyone seeking a stimulating whirlwind of thought and study, I don't want to move on too quickly from the first. That God Himself would take on a human form is, second to Christ's death on the cross, is the most astonishing manifestation of His love we could ever imagine.

Theologians often use the term "kenosis," and while I don't want to puff myself up with fancy vocabulary and 5-dollar words, the roots of this term should be meaningful to us all. the Greek κενόω (kenoō) means to empty out, like pouring out a pitcher until it's entirely empty. It's a total dispelling of all that one has. Christ emptied Himself in order to be found in the likeness of a man so that He might die the death that we deserve.

But how did He empty Himself? What is it that emptied Christ of His equality with the Father and His glorified state? Not the subtraction of a divine nature, but the addition of a human one. Subtraction by addition... much in the way that adding new paint on top of the Mona Lisa would empty it almost entirely of it's value.

I must give credit for this "Emptying by Adding" interpretation to Gerald Hawthorne, professor at Wheaton College who has published commentary on Philippians. To affirm that Christ was emptied of His deity is called the Kenotic Heresy. Scripture and Church History both affirm that Christ is both fully God and fully Man. So, what does that mean for us?

First, your attitude should be like that of Christ. He sacrificed so much to be our savior... to be our God who would tabernacle among us. What can we withhold in our worship? What do we have that we do not owe Him?

More than that, what excuse do we have as we continue to fail in our obedience to God. Living in His totally human nature, albeit not sinful nature, but nonetheless susceptible to temptation in every way that we are, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, resisted temptation entirely. He was not spared from sin because He was God. No, indeed He endured by the same strength that we now have available to us through the indwelling Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

Peter offers a daunting charge for all of us, yet it was not Peter who charged it first. Inasmuch as we have been called, we are called to this: perfection.
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth'" (1 Peter 2:21-22)

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