Kenosis and Teamwork

Written by Jennie Brackett

Scripture to Read: Philippians 2:1-11

A few years ago, I helped organize an office ‘Olympics’ retreat for my twenty-three colleagues. We rented a pavilion at St. Patrick’s Park and planned eight or so events for the day. While they were all funny to watch, two stand out to me as the most memorable. One was a bouncy ball soccer game. We required each team member to sit on an adult size bouncy ball with a handle, and work together on two teams, to score soccer goals. Besides the obvious hilarity that comes with an event like this, it was interesting to see the dynamic of team against team, or even individual against individual. The other game that comes to mind was what we called slalom skiing. While we didn’t have the jumps you usually see, we did have eight-foot-long 2x4s with straps every so often on them. The goal was to work together with three to four other people to move right-foot, left-foot, right-foot in a cadence to the finish line. In this event, there was no choice, but to work together as a team to accomplish a common goal.

There was no room in this second event, unlike the first, for selfishness or trying to impress others. Everyone had to be humble, and realize that, for the good of the team, you had to look out for the interests of the others. This is what Paul is telling the Philippians to do in chapter 2, verses 2 – 4. Don’t be selfish, make this thing you are doing here, about something far greater. Do it with one mind and purpose, to live for Christ.

Recently, I was introduced to the word kenosis. I had never heard that word before, and it has now become a word that I try to think about every day. It means an emptying of oneself as Christ does in verse seven of this chapter. He emptied himself of his divine privileges and came to live a life as we all do, but so much better than we do – as a perfect example of God’s love. Just think of all the ways He showed us examples of how we should live our lives – together, as one people, agreeing with each other, loving each other, not selfish, humble, and constantly working to get others to believe. He emptied himself of all he had in heaven, to take all the sins (that he never committed, by the way), so that we could be with him. Talk about emptying of oneself. He did this not just for you and me, but for every human on this earth.

So, this takes me back to the team. The goal was to work together, to reach a common end-game. Our common process should be to daily work on kenosis – the emptying of ourselves, filling up with who God wants us to be, and working toward an end-goal of salvation for all. Verses ten and eleven talk about how every knee will bow – believer or not, and all will confess, whether a believer or not, that Chris is Lord and has ultimate power with God. Something we as Christians like to do is point at non-believers and say this, almost as an accusation. However, it is important to remember that we too, will be humbled by his holy presence. So we should fill ourselves, as Christ did when he came, with those characteristics he embodied and empty ourselves of ourselves. Let us be filled with him so that others see his glory and sacrifice.

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