The Fall of Nations

If you have watched the news recently, you likely have seen the stories of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan after twenty years of conflict. The images that came from the airport at Kabul were as shocking as those from the Vietnam era–and even more so. Desperate people clung to airplanes as they sought to escape the Taliban.

Of course, now we are seeing the Genesis 3 game, “Blame the Other Guy.” President Biden blames the Afghans for “lacking the will to fight” (though in fairness they have been fighting for 20 years–and much longer before we came on the scene). The Republicans blame the President (though in honesty and fairness, the withdrawal was announced by former President Obama and the deal was brokered by former President Trump). In the midst of the wrangling, people have been forgotten about.

This isn’t a post about the Taliban, American politics, or even specifically about the fall of Afghanistan. Rather, this is a post about the bigger and deeper issue that lies beneath–the loss of America’s moral leadership. That statement may shock you, and it both should and should not shock you.

Almost since the founding of this country, America has lauded itself as the great moral leader of the world. America will do what’s right. America will protect the interests of those who are weak. Yet, that moral leadership has been slowly deteriorating. No one event can be said to cause the decline. Though the so-called “religious right” like to assert that America was a “Christian nation,” that has never really been true. Founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Certainly. Christian (as in ‘submitted to Christ’s leadership’)? Never. But I digress…

What we have seen is the result of leadership not submitted to Christ. That is not a political statement. That is a biblical statement. Human nature will always seek life apart from God, and part of that is a loss of a moral compass. It was once said of America and democracy that American democracy was the great hope of the world. Even countries that disagreed with America at least trusted her. Now, America doesn’t keep the promises she made. President Biden said that Afghanistan had lost the will to fight. Could it be rather that America has lost the will to fight? (And not just in a military sense.)

I have long said that there will be a day of reckoning, where the church will have to choose between continuing to Americanize the gospel or be the church and preach the Gospel of Christ. Recent events highlight the fact that this day is coming sooner than perhaps we’d like. Make no mistake, the country that has lost moral leadership on the international level has already lost moral leadership at home. With that, we will see the nation turn against those who claim the name of Christ.

What must the church do? Prepare. We are directed to live our lives in such a way as to give no reason for the world to substantiate any accusations against us. We cannot do this as long as we look to politics to solve problems. We must stop allowing our political viewpoints to dictate how we view Scripture, the church, and others. Instead, we must thrust ourselves onto Christ alone and let Him inform our conscience and our worldview. And I daresay that His worldview will be shockingly different than those who have mixed politics and Christianity. As I wrote in an open letter some time ago, the American church has hitched herself to two horses, the horse of America and the horse of the gospel. These two are fundamentally incompatible with each other. It’s time for the church to decide on which horse she will continue to ride, because to ride on both is no longer possible.

[Read the full text of “The Church in America: An Open Letter“].


The Mind of Christ

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

— (Philippians 2:1–11, NET)

Some time ago, I was asked a question regarding this passage of Scripture. The question focused on the idea that Christ “emptied Himself,” and wanted to know what that really meant. This is one of those topics that has caused much debate in the church, and like many such debates it misses the point of the passage.

We can naturally break this passage down into a few parts.

  • The appeal for unity and of one mind (vv. 1–2)
  • A description of the “one mind” (vv. 3–5).
  • Christ’s example of these traits (vv. 6–8).
  • Christ’s exaltation because of His humility (vv. 9–11).

Paul’s thinking here is quite logical and natural, so we’ll talk about each in turn.

A) The appeal for unity and of one mind (vv. 1–2).

Paul begins by appealing to the Philippians for unity. He appeals to them to be “”like-minded, having the same love, united in spirit, with a single purpose” (Mounce Reverse Interlinear Translation). He asks them to do this so that his joy in them my be complete. This doesn’t imply that the Philippian church was divided, but rather it is simply a call to maintain that unity that the church has within and with the apostle.

B) A description of the “one mind” (vv. 3–4).

What does this unity, this “like-mindedness” look like? Paul sets out to describe it in the next three verses. The traits he lists include:

  • An absence of selfish ambition and conceit
  • Considering others more important
  • Looking out for the interests of others, instead of only looking out for self.

What do these things add up to? Humility. That’s the attitude that will promote the kind of like-mindedness and promote God’s purpose that Paul mentions.

C) Christ’s example of these traits (vv. 5–8).

Verse five really holds a key to understanding the passage. Notice that Pual says the Philippians should “have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” Then he proceeds to describe Christ’s attitude.

This is where most people get tangled up. They focus on what it means for Christ to empty Himself, rather than Paul’s point. Paul’s point in these verses is simply this: Though Lord of all, Christ became a servant to others. He set aside His own needs and desires for the good of others. That is Paul’s point.

D) Christ’s exaltation because of His humility (vv. 9–11).

Because Christ showed such humility, even though He is God-in-the-flesh, the Father has placed Him above all people and things. Though He became the lowliest servant and suffered God’s wrath for us all, now He has “the name that is above every name.” This echoes Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

In the same way, the believer who practices such humility will be exalted in due time. James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

What Does it Mean?

So, the Bible doesn’t directly answer that question. There are, however, some things we can say about Christ’s emptying Himself.

Most importantly, Christ never ceased being God. God cannot cease to be God, nor can God give up any of His attributes.

What it really means is this: God took the form of a servant, both to save us and to show us how we are to live in His grace.