Philippians 2 is Often Erroneously Applied to the Victim instead of the Abuser
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
This is the kind of scripture that people so often butcher, and in the process they carve up abuse victims while claiming to speak for the Lord. You all know pretty much how this passage would be used. “Now, what you need to do is humble yourself. You need to seek your husband’s interests and stop seeking just your own welfare. You are being prideful and self-serving and Jesus wants you to be like Him. Your husband needs his wife to look out for him and help him. Count him more significant than yourself.”
Right? That’s how it goes. But as is soooo typical, this is turning the Scripture completely on its head (i.e., upside down). How many abuse victims do you know who are selfishly ambitious, conceited, arrogant, and only looking out for their own interests? I don’t know of ANY (except maybe one or two who turned out to not be real victims at all). None. In fact what gets us all into trouble when we are oppressed by the wicked is that we end up misapplying humility. We look out for the interests of the abuser far too long. We want to please the Lord and so we (erroneously) think that He would have us regard the evil abuser as more significant than ourselves or our children. After all, that is what we were so often taught.
But it’s all wrong.
This scripture is addressing people who are selfishly ambitious, conceited, arrogant, and who look out only for their own interests. Who does that describe? The abuser! Yes, the passage is certainly addressed to all of us in the sense of warning us not to be mislead by false teaching and not to permit our sinful flesh to lead us into sin. But specifically, Paul would have been addressing people in the church, professing Christians, who were puffed up and selfish and trampling on others. He says such an attitude and behavior is not of Christ.
Humility is not inconsistent with standing against wickedness
This passage in Philippians immediately goes on to say —
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
So Christ is our example in all of this. Yes, Christ emptied himself and was a servant. He died on the cross. But as we study His life and teachings in the gospels we see Him standing up to the wicked, denouncing them, exposing them, preaching against them. In other words, Jesus’ life and example shows us that humility is not inconsistent with standing against wickedness and refusing to tolerate evil.
Jesus submitted to evil when it unjustly murdered him on Calvary Hill. But He submitted to that evildoing for a special and unique reason: He lovingly wanted to make a way for fallen mankind to be forgiven of sin. His humble submissive non-resistance and non-escape from evildoers was done for a very specific purpose: to effect a once-for-all substitutionary atonement for the sins of the people. So in His death at the Cross, Jesus was seeking the interests of others: those who would come to faith in Him.
But during His life on earth, Jesus was seeking the interests of others in a different way: by exposing the wicked who oppress victims, by warning this disciples to beware of wolves and the leaven of the false teachers, and by setting the captives free from affliction, sickness, stigma, etc. In His life and teaching, one of his key messages was this: The stance of turning a blind eye to the wicked who oppress victims is a self-seeking stance.
That, you see, is what the problem is. People, and often in particular professing Christians, are actually SELF-seeking when they turn a blind eye to the wicked who oppress victims, when they enable or collude with the wicked, and when they tell abuse victims to buckle down, humble themselves, and endure more abuse. By choosing these responses, self-seeking people don’t have to pay the price of standing with the victim.
Therefore, it is abusers and their allies who are selfishly ambitious, self-interest seekers, arrogant, and conceited. Philippians 2 is for them, not for the victim.
Mind-boggling isn’t it? I mean, so often we are seeing that we have been taught EXACTLY OPPOSITE of what the Bible really says. That is called false teaching, and those who mishandle God’s Word this way are going to have a big price to pay one Day. Big. I mean, really, really big.
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