Many Christians will believe in Christ. Few Christians will become like Christ.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Paul’s Letter to the Church Community at Philippi
Kenosis : A process of being emptied of one’s personal will to become entirely receptive to God’s will.
The way of Jesus is counterintuitive and contradictory to our culture norms. It’s this counterintuitive and contradictory way that we need in our world now more than ever. This is the way to live alive.
Jesus demonstrates the fullness of love and life by hanging on a cross.
A cross: a structure of pain and humiliation
Jesus hung. Emptied. Poured out.
Jesus models a revolutionary pathway towards alive living. The deep, life-giving transformation that we are all seeking.
We have been colonized into pathways of living that are fast and furious. Consumerism tells us that life is about accumulation. Success tells us the higher we climb, the greater we become.
But in a moment, we could lose everything we’ve gained.
In a moment, we could fall off the ladder of success that we climbed.
“What good would it do you to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” – Jesus
Jesus doesn’t climb ladders. Jesus doesn’t accumulate wealth and power. He takes the form of a servant. Jesus – the servant king – came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life for us to find our lives.
As Christ followers, we believe in this Jesus. The Jesus who descended, who emptied himself, passed through the penalty of sins – death, and resurrected to life, so that we could be resurrected to life. This is the gospel truth we cling to as Christians. This is the sacrificial love that we proclaim. The death walk of Jesus.
Yet we struggle to become like Christ in the process of kenosis.
We struggle to follow Jesus’s model of alive living.
We lose ourselves, the real us, to accumulation of power and wealth.
Let’s be clear…
Kenosis is not pain for the sake of pain.
Pain on its own does not produce transformation.
We see in our lives and the lives of those around us.
Pain can produce more pain. Pain can produce anger, rage, discontent, bitterness, control, passive-aggression, not-so-passive aggression, and on and on.
But what if Jesus’s example of being emptied, so that he could emerge in the fullness of glory, is a pathway towards living alive?
What if what’s so revolutionary about Jesus is that he empathizes with our human condition of pain and personally demonstrated a way towards living alive through the pain?
What if becoming like Christ in kenosis is the pathway towards the lives we were designed to live?
It’s when we become like Christ in kenosis, where we face ourselves in the darkest depths. Where we have an opportunity to be refined by the fire. Where the gold in us is separated from the impure dross. Our self-serving, self-dependent, self-gratifying ways are purged in the descent. Our false selves are stripped away. We are detoxed from the colonization of our fast and furious culture. We are truly made new. Not by means of self-help, but through self-sacrifice.
We are already bearing crosses. Becoming like Christ in kenosis empowers us to bear our crosses, so that the pain of our crosses don’t destroy us. When we follow Jesus’s way of bearing a cross, the pain doesn’t produce pain. The pain transforms us to live alive.
When we hear Jesus invite the disciples to “deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him”, that invitation sounds terrifying to us. It’s too much, we think. We look at the pain and humiliation that Jesus endured on the cross and we twist kenosis into something masochistic and abusive. What kind of Savior would ask me to endure such hardship. Any twisting of this invitation to true discipleship is not the pathway Jesus is offering.
Jesus is not inviting us to live some alternate reality of our lives – sequestered, secluded, and separated from our life. Jesus does not condemn our lives as bad or good.
On the contrary, Jesus wants to make us new, so that we can live our lives to the fullest. He gives us a pathway to live alive in the life He’s given us. Jesus longs for us to live alive in every corner of creation. Jesus wants you to carry your stories of love and life into your families, your offices, your neighborhoods, your gyms, your schools, and every place you live life.
The true invitation is to deny our false selves, take up the crosses we already have, and follow Jesus in being emptied of our personal will, so that we can be filled with the will of God. A greater will. A will for us to experience life and life abundantly and share that life with others. A life that is not fast and furious, but whole and purposeful.
Yes – Jesus’s invitation is a radical reordering and reorientation of our lives. We are asked to live with the Lord reigning over every part of our lives. But it’s a pathway to alive living. It’s a counterintuitive and contradictory pathway far greater than the empty ways our culture offers us, because it’s true transformation.
The way of Jesus is a new way to be human.
I don’t want to just believe in Jesus.
I want to become like Jesus.
I want to become Christ in kenosis.
Being emptied of all that is false in me and saying as Christ said during his most painful moment in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion:
“Not my will, Father, but Your will be done.”
May we boldly follow Jesus’s pathway towards alive living.
May we be transformed into portals of love and life for others to discover life and life abundantly.
“All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.” – Paul’s Letter to the Church Community at Philippi
Together, let’s live well,