Paul, in Philippians 2:8, pointed Christians to behold Christ Jesus perfect humility viz. “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”(verse 8 ESV)
The gravity of this humiliation, being obedient to the point of death on a cross, can be missed by a 21st century Christians, due to enormous difference between our traditions and culture to that of Greek-Roman and Palestine in Paul’s times. Christians in Philippi felt the weight and the depth of Christ obedience as Paul commended them to contemplate, the King of Kings, Lord of Lord strapped naked, most cruelly and painfully nailed on a probably T-shaped cross (Carpenter & Comfort: 2000: 260).
Christians in Phillip knew that the death on a cross was only revered to worst criminals, “a most miserable death”(Josephus: 1737: 1520) that was a sign of being cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23) in a Jewish worldview and “crudelissimum taeterrimumque supplicium” (Cicero), most cruel and disgusting punishment that the very word, viz. cross, should be far removed from Roman citizen in a Greek-Roman worldview.
Paul was asking Christians in Philippi to go into this radical life style of humiliation and a selfless attitude. This two millennia old teaching still applies today. Christians are called to humble themselves and selflessly look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others, lowering themselves to the extremes of worst possible shame.
21st Christians are called not to think of themselves as morally superior to the non-Christians, or holier in a way that creates a stumbling block to sinners around them. Example, Christian ought not to down-look people who engaged in sexually immoral, or idolaters, or adulterers, or men who practice homosexuality, or thieves, or the greedy, or drunkards, or revilers, or swindlers and so on (1 Cor 6:10; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 13:4; Rev. 21:8; 22:15), but in love count themselves nothing in order to reach out to them.
If Christ Jesus, supreme holiest , in love humble himself to die for sinners like us, who were not different from non-Christians, how much more can we, Christians, who are made holy by his shed blood, do the same. Ellsworth writes: “We are saved by virtue of his willingness to humble himself and put our interests above his own comfort. We cannot receive the benefits of his sacrifice, and then refuse to follow his example.”(Ellsworth: 2004: 38)
“Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That’s why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. ”
Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (260). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Josephus, Flavius (1737), Josephus: The Complete Works. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Ellsworth, R. (2004). Opening up Philippians . Leominster: Day One Publications.