The Unselfish Character of Jesus – Learning from the Master

Of all the ways to educate and stretch our minds, there is no more life-changing way than to give ourselves wholeheartedly to living with the mind of Christ.

The decade of the 1960s included dangerous experimentation with “mind-altering” or “mind-expanding” drugs. While many were just following the crowd, some were looking for a new awareness and consciousness that would lift life to a new level of meaning.

The tragedy of the psychedelic solutions of the 60s was that too often the drugs damaged the very instrument that God gave to live a fulfilling life. Instead of opening up young vibrant minds, hallucinogenic drugs often shut them down. Rather than giving life a sense of purpose and meaning, the abused drugs were more likely to impair the mind’s capacity to process even the simplest aspects of everyday life.

In retrospect, it’s clear that there are more thoughtful and effective ways to open and expand our minds. And of all the ways to educate and stretch our minds, there is no more life-changing way than to give ourselves wholeheartedly to living with the mind of Christ.

How do we do this? Philippians 2:5–11, which contains some of the most profound thoughts ever written, gives us a clue.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This passage describes “the mind of Christ” and the ways it expresses itself—not in theory but in reality. The characteristics of His attitude, which are so different from our human responses.


Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:5–6).

For centuries, debate has raged over what Paul meant by the second half of this statement. Before considering the theological issues, may I suggest that we keep in mind the practical, relational issues of the context.

Paul’s intent was to help the Philippians restore the joy of an unselfish life (vv.1–4). Too many of their actions were based on personal interests and agendas. That’s why Paul moved his readers’ attention to Christ, who lived and died in such contrast to the self-centeredness that many of them were practicing.

To feel the weight of Paul’s illustration it will help us to understand what some other passages in the New Testament say about Christ. For example, John 1:1–2,14 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

When Christ came into the world, He set all that aside and came “In the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). No one had more right than He did to remain above our pain. Yet by His own example, He showed us how to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:4).

Christ, by virtue of His eternal deity, had every right to remain on the throne of heaven. But His love for us compelled Him to do otherwise. Instead of avoiding the hellish pain of our sin and punishment, He loving set aside:

  • A heavenly throne for an earthly manger.
  • Majestic splendor for suffering and shame.
  • The rights of the Son for the place of a slave.
  • The regalia of glory for the robes of humanity.

This is the mind of Christ. It is the essential attitude of selflessness, which says to the Father, “Not My will but Your will” (Mt. 26:39).


Yogi Berra is alleged to have said of baseball “Half of this game is 90 percent mental.” It’s even more than that in life. Our minds and attitudes have profound effect in shaping the way we live. If we are to know the joy of the Christlike difference, the results will be seen in a way that reflects His character. And not only will our personal lives begin to look like His, we will together (in the church) begin to look and act like Him (1 Cor. 12:12–31; Eph. 4:11–16).

This brings us back to the church at Philippi—wracked by division, motivated by selfishness, and driven by personal agendas. If they were to put the Christlike difference into practice within the body of Christ (the church), they had to do what Paul urged in verse 3: 

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

On a practical level, how can this be done? By putting into practice some simple instructions for believers—the “one another” statements of the New Testament that put others first and ourselves in a place of lesser priority. For example:

  • Love one another (Jn. 13:35)
  • Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
  • Build up one another (Rom. 14:19).
  • Accept one another (Rom. 15:7).
  • Admonish one another (Rom. 15:14).
  • Serve one another (Gal. 5:13).
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
  • Be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32).
  • Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).
  • Be subject to one another (Eph. 5:21).
  • Comfort one another (1 Th. 4:18).
  • Encourage one another (1 Th. 5:11).
  • Live in peace with one another (1 Th. 5:13).
  • Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).
  • Confess sin to one another (Jas. 5:16).
  • Be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9).

This is how the mind of Christ can be demonstrated in the church. Jesus was obedient to die for us out of love. Now we are to be obedient to live for Him out of love. It demands that we truly allow His mind—with all its selflessness, sacrifice, servanthood, humility, and patience—to captivate us and shape our lives. May we move toward a life rooted in the difference Christ makes by allowing His mind to govern our hearts.

Hymn writer Kate Wilkinson expressed it this way:

May the mind

of Christ, my Savior,

Live in me

from day to day,

By His love

and power controlling

All I do and say.