Friday, January 25, 2013

What is your "status"?

Status:  The social or professional position, condition, or standing to which varying degrees of responsibility, privilege, and esteem are attached.  

Esteem:  Regard highly or favorably, with respect or admiration; to consider as of a certain value.

Value:  Worth, merit, or importance; to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.

We place "value" on certain things, don't we?  In considering someone, or something, we determine some "importance" or "degree of excellence" which we will "assign" to the individual or object.  Sometimes the individual or object then is held in a higher, or lower, esteem based on the value we "assign".  In turn, we often equate "position" or "standing" based on our determination of "assigned value".  It is not unlikely that we have even assigned "value" to certain actions of others, and even ourselves.  We often do this without much thought - giving, or attaching, some sense of "worth" to various actions and their resulting outcomes without much conscious thought. The danger - we often assign value based on our "interpretation" of the importance or excellence of the action to us at that moment in time.  The "value" we assign today may not be the importance we hold with regard to the same action in the future.  Our "determining" of merit can fluctuate depending upon mood, circumstance, and even the individual we are considering.  When it comes to considering our OWN value, we often are the most "fickle" or "fluctuating" in "assigning" value!

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.  (Philippians 2:5-8 MSG)

Jesus took a different "tact" to determining value.  He had "equal" status with God the Father.  No amount of "doing" or "manipulating" would make that status any better.  He already had pretty "awesome" status!  Yet, he did not "cling to" the status he had - he did not let it define his actions.  Now, before you consider me a hypocrite or some heretic, let me explain what I mean.  Jesus, equal with God himself, did not think so highly of himself that he was unwilling or unable to see the need of humanity and then take on the form of humanity in order to accomplish the remedy to that need.  He could have said, "Hey, I am holy!  I cannot rub elbows with those sinners!  You just don't understand how important my position is in the scheme of things in this world!"

Paul gives us some insight into how we really should view the "worth" or "value" of the actions of both ourselves and others.  First, we glean from the example of Christ a certain ability to be selfless - willing to consider others ahead of what he already had himself.  In thinking about this, Paul reminds us Jesus was able to separate his "status" from his "actions".  He laid aside "status" in order to "act" in a way totally contrary to his status - laying down his deity to take on the position of a slave.  If you are the owner of the manor, to take on the position of a slave suggests a huge transition in "status" or "worth" in the eyes of those who behold this action.  I wonder what we could accomplish if we took our eyes off of "status" and began to see the "worth" of another as more valuable than our own personal "status"?

Second, he set aside privileges.  With "status" comes privilege - there is some resulting "benefit" to status, is there not?  For example, you can buy tickets to a concert, but when you get the "all-access" tickets, you get to meet the artists, rub elbows with the band, and the like.  There is a benefit to the "status" of having the "all-access" tickets.  Paul tells us Jesus was able to separate the "privileges" of his position - taking on the form of humankind.  This probably meant he had to deal with the stuff humans deal with - like hunger, emotions, being tired, and aching feet from long hours standing on them.  He could have continued to luxuriate in the "status" of being "equal to God", but he laid that down those privileges in order to experience humanity.  I don't know about you, but this suggests a whole lot to me about the "value" Jesus gives to each of us!  He was willing to "associate" with our pain and need in order to meet it!

Last, Jesus shows us the real "worth" of individual is not in "claiming" his own rights, but in laying them down.  This is the meaning of him living a "selfless and obedient" life.  If you really think on this one, you realize to live "selflessly", one must begin to think more of another than they do of themselves.  Whenever we claim our rights, are we really living selflessly?  Not hardly!  We are thinking of self first - something entirely different than what Jesus exemplified.  To live obediently suggests a willingness to submit to an authority higher than yourself.  So, what Paul tells us is that Jesus not only laid down his "claims" for his "rights" as "equal to God", but he also was willing to submit to the authority of his Father God.  If you have a hard time figuring out how one who is "equal to God" actually "submits to God", you are probably not alone.  I think it centers on this whole "value", "worth" and "esteem" issue.  He was willing to take on whatever needed to be done in order to connect with and meet the needs of humanity - selflessly, without falling back on his "rights" or "status".  Pretty amazing, if you ask me!

I don't know about you, but I think I attach "value" or "worth" to other people's actions all the time.  I even find myself "comparing" their actions to my own - seeing if they measure up or are actually "better" than mine!  Do you ever do that?  If so, I think you and I might just need to take a lesson or two from Jesus - remembering it is not in the "status" we obtain where we are "defined", but in the selfless obedience of considering our "status" less important than the needs of another!  Just sayin!