Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Paul keeps singing.
Yesterday we looked at the first stanza of a hymn we suspect the Philippians knew well and today we move to the second. Hymns are powerful because of the way they distill the power of conviction to a compact confession in meter and tune. So also with this hymn, as in these two stanzas we discover the very heart of the gospel.
It is said somewhat differently in other places. In the story of Jesus as told by Mark, Matthew, and Luke, for instance, Jesus says that those who strive to win their lives will lose it, yet those who lose their lives for the sake of the gospel will find it. And in John’s Gospel Jesus makes clear that there is no greater love than to give your life for another, and that this is precisely what he intends to do.
So also Paul borrows the words of this hymn to describe, first, Jesus’ complete abandonment of all that is his due him by his nature and status as God’s Son out of love for us and, second, the corresponding exaltation he receives from God.
This isn’t, we should be clear, exaltation as reward, but rather exaltation as consequence. It’s not that Jesus takes on mortal form because he knows it’ll all work out for him. Sort of a divine “return on investment.” Rather, he takes on our form out of love, and in losing himself for us he receives everything and more back. Why? Because that’s the way it is. Love, that is. Love isn’t something you can horde, or earn, or save up, or stash away, or protect, or keep safe. Love can be given and shared. And that’s about it. Only when you give it away do you have any chance of receiving it back again.
I know that’s scary. I mean, it’s a huge risk. There’s no guarantee that by loving another he or she will love you back. To love, for this reason, is to be completely vulnerable.
That’s true of Jesus. That’s true of us. Indeed, perhaps that’s why Jesus comes, takes on our form, loses his life to share the good news of God’s love, and gives his life for another. Not to earn God’s favor, not to pay some divine debt, not to appease an angry God. But rather just to love us, to show us how much we are loved, and in this way to invite and empower us to love others in the same way that we might also experience the peculiar, unexpected, divine calculus of love.
God is love, after all, and that’s just the way love works.
And so Paul keeps singing.
Prayer: Dear God, love us that we may love…again, and again, and again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.