“Grasping” for Success cannot be Confused with Love

In my last article, I gave my thoughts on how Jesus did not “grasp” for relevance but knew that Love is the only true revelation of the Father. The idea is presented by Paul in Philippiansdownload (MG book) 2: 1-11, but specifically verse 5 saying,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Most people, in my past experience in churches, would say that Jesus shed his divine nature to become human. I do not believe that this is the best interpretation of what Paul is saying here. In an amazing book called Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, The author, Michael J. Gorman, makes an excellent point that Paul is saying that Jesus, who empties himself of all conceit and selfish ambition, is showing that this is who God is….The very divine nature of God is “self-emptying”, or Kenotic. This makes so much more sense to me, when reading the Bible, than a lot of traditional interpretations of Protestant Theology. God gives of himself…he shows us the exact definition of Love. The kicker is, a lot of our definitions of love are the exact opposite of the kenosis of Jesus in his life and on the cross. Maybe our thoughts on love and who God is are rooted more in our ideas of who we want God to be? Just think about it….

What is Kenosis? Michael Gorman goes to great lengths in his book to define it as, “the self-emptying” of Christ, which is the real character of God. Jesus is showing who the Father is by displaying a non-violent, non-retributive, self-emptying nature that can only move in its truest and earliest form…Love.

For me, this changes everything that has been taught and upheld by Protestant Theology all the way down to the attitudes that run our church buildings on Sunday mornings. Jesus gives a view of God that is in stark contrast to our modern day, western style church leadership. We need to think about that if Jesus is self-emptying, non-violent, self-humbling, of no conceit, thought of others first, worked with others, tender-hearted, compassionate, and did not think equality with God was something to grasp for then we have a huge issue with pastors that are self-centered, egotistical, success driven, put their own ministry first before others, believe they are not equal with “laity”, has armed body guards, feeds on the praises of their congregation, and thrives as a central charismatic figure that their listeners are told is anointed by God.

Success of buildings and growth has intoxicated people to, very quickly, look past that fact that pastors can be very abusive within the system of religion….yes even Christianity and its many tribes called denominations. We cannot confuse the grasping of success with the Love that Jesus showed and lived. We cannot accept and continue to ignore the abusive behavior that comes from church leadership, and those aspiring to get there, as they preserve and protect the religious organizations that thrive on money, manipulation, and free labor….otherwise known as SUCCESS!

Love needs to be our foundation. Love needs to be what all things hang on. Love needs to be our Life. This is what Jesus decided, according to Paul in Phil. 2, by pushing and denying all the success the world had to offer him. We even see this confirmed by his temptation in the desert. Jesus denied the darkest possibility of himself, which was to grasp at being God. So why do we put up with pastors that grasp at success? Why do we allow this to be the measuring standard of a successful church building? Why do we choose to look away when injustice, to another person, has been served in the name of preservation or even moving forward? We need to ask ourselves these questions as religious organizations flourish around us. Preservation should never be a strategy, or even a consideration, and success should never be a standard of measurement. But when you have careers depending on the revenue of tithing, then organizations will always justify “grasping” as equal and the same as Love. But it’s not…Jesus is different. Just think about it…

6 thoughts on ““Grasping” for Success cannot be Confused with Love

  1. I love how you draw on the kenosis as a model for pastoral ministry. We hear so often about Kenosis from our pulpits, and often preach it ourselves, but really living a life of self-emptying is so rare.


    1. Reading Michael Gorman’s book put a lot of that idea in my head. It seems to me that real Love for another comes from ridding yourself of selfish desire and ambition (serve God or mammon reference)…so how can a pastor pursue their desires at the expense of others? It seems the choice is either success (kingdom of the world) or kenosis (kingdom of God).


  2. I love this! It made that whole verse click for me. Instead of Jesus emptying himself of the divine nature, he brought his divine nature with him to reveal that God’s nature is in loving self-emptying. And the way you make it practical for our daily lives – it’s brilliant!


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