Read Philippians 2:1-13.

emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7)

What I don’t understand is how those other Christians can be so obtuse. Don’t they know that racism / socialism / corruption / abortion / COVID deaths / white nationalism / multiculturalism / rejection of truth / rejection of moral norms / alliance with radicals / alliance with evil are destroying the country—and the church?

The church at Philippi was apparently divided. In a letter, Paul pleads with them in the strongest possible way to be “in full accord and of one mind.” As though it were that easy: c’mon guys, can’t we all just get along?

Paul explains the source of these conflicts: desires. The will. Wanting your own way. Self. Paul’s remedy: “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” “Regard others as better than yourselves.” “Look not only to your own interests.” Paul is trying to describe how mature Christians think and talk and walk. And love.

So many descriptions of the goal of the spiritual life. Detachment. Disinterest. Dispassion. Humility. Death. Rebirth. Spiritual freedom. Stillness. Quiet. Peace. Tranquillity. Equanimity. Rest. Surrender. Letting go. Abandonment. Purity of heart. Taking up your cross. Loving God above all.

To these, Paul adds one more: emptiness. Paul advises us to have the same mind as Christ, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” He “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” In this magnificent paean to Christ Paul points us to the path we should follow: emptiness.

Emptiness apparently involves relinquishing any claims of honor or power you may have. It involves becoming a slave—a person wholly devoted to the will of another. It involves obedience—following immediately and whole-heartedly. It involves loving whatever it is that comes about for you, because you love God. Even if it is death. On a cross. Because that’s what it will be.

Are you happier when at peace than when suffering? You are not yet empty.

Do you prefer consolations of prayer to aridity? You are not yet empty.

Do you desire a particular outcome in the upcoming election? You are not yet even close to being empty.

Emptiness in this sense is not a lack of feeling or indifference to suffering or the absence of desire for justice and goodness. It’s about the will. It’s the defeat of rebellion against God. It’s accepting the path God has in mind for us because we have faith in him and love him. It’s taking up your cross and following Christ.

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and