Consider…

Earlier this year, while blogging on Philippians 2, I suggested that instead of asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” we should ask, “How would Jesus think?” Following Jesus isn’t just about behaving in new ways, as important as that might be. Rather, whatever changes we make in our behavior should arise from a change in how we see ourselves, others, and the world. The gospel changes how we understand religion, spirituality, and the relationship between the two.

Take the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees as an example. Over and over, Jesus offended their religious sensibilities by not properly (in their minds) respecting the Sabbath. He did works of healing on the Sabbath. And when he let his hungry disciples pick heads of grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees objected, interpreting this as forbidden “work.”

This isn’t simple nitpicking on the Pharisees’ part. Circumcision and Sabbath observance were two of the central distinguishing marks of God’s people, reinforced repeatedly in the Old Testament law. Just as the Judaizers in Paul’s day pushed circumcision on Gentile converts, so too the Pharisees in Jesus’ day insisted on keeping the Sabbath.

But Jesus’ reply is instructive: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, NIV). He wasn’t saying, “I’m changing the rules. I’m in charge, and I get to say what is and isn’t okay.” That would be like making an amendment to a rule without changing the whole rule-based system. Rather, he introduced a fundamental change in perspective: Sabbath was to be understood as a gift, not as a religious requirement that trumped people’s legitimate needs.

And how Paul thinks follows how Jesus thinks. We can see that in the passage we’ve been unpacking in the last few posts:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil 3:7-9)

Paul uses the same verb three times. The NIV translates it as “consider,” while in the New Revised Standard it’s “regard,” and in the New American Standard, it’s “count.” It’s as if Paul were saying, Before I met Jesus, I thought all the things that made me an exemplary Jew were on the profit side of my spiritual ledger. But after I met Jesus, my whole religious accounting system changed. Jesus takes up that whole side of the ledger now, and I’m writing everything else off as a loss.

Significantly, this is not the only place in the letter Paul uses that verb. He uses it of Jesus, who even though he was equal to God, “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (2:6). And Paul wants the Philippians to adopt the same mindset in turn: “in humility value (again, consider) others above yourselves” (2:3).

Paul wants the Philippians to think like Jesus. And as we’ll see shortly, Paul wants the Philippians to think as he himself does, too, since he thinks likes Jesus. His values and priorities have radically shifted, because he has the mind of Christ.

That’s the question for us, as we try to put ourselves in the Philippians’ sandals. How will we think, especially when we find ourselves in conflict? How should we think, as followers of Jesus and students of Paul’s example? How are we keeping our relational accounts?

It’s something to consider.