While older translations use the word “mind” in verse 5 (cf RSV, AV), more recent translations use the word “attitude”. Compare the NIV: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”. Paul explains what he means by this in verses 6 to 8. Christ did not hold on to his equality with God, but gave up his divine privileges and humbled himself to the position of a slave and, even more so, to die a criminal’s death on the cross (cf NLT).
This attitude of Christ stands in stark contrast to the kind of attitudes we so often encounter. We are always meeting people who seem to be primarily focused on themselves and who are harsh and unkind – quick to judge and slow to show compassion. These are the attitudes that account for the hurt and humiliation experienced by many people living with HIV.
Jesus’ attitude does not only stand in contrast to what we frequently experience. His attitude is also what our communities and the world we live in need.
Maybe you have experienced the following: someone unexpectedly surprising you with a generous act of kindness or with gentle and caring words. You will remember how it uplifted you and enriched your life.
Fortunately there are many examples and beautiful stories of the attitude of Christ Jesus in our times. The places and situations where this attitude figures noticeably are where Christians identify with people in need, where people become involved in the needs that arise from the HIV and Aids pandemic: attending to the sick, supporting people living with HIV spiritually and emotionally, advocating a more humane and just society. There are many more examples.
Serving with the attitude of Christ is not an easy path to walk. If you follow Christ on this road you run the risk of experiencing something of his suffering. However, the choice is not about you. It is about the love of Christ. It is about confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord – to the glory of God the Father (cf verse 11).