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5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
History says the city of Philippi was full of retired Roman military men. Ask them to name a great leader and they’d have named Alexander the Great, the Greek general who conquered nearly all the known world, or the Roman Emperor Augustus who used force to end a civil war in the empire and bring a type of “peace” by suppressing any who disagreed with him. Yet “[Jesus] was the reality, and Alexander and Augustus were the caricature. [Jesus] is what true global sovereignty looked like.” * Paul urged the Philippians to be like Jesus (the Christ = anointed one), a vastly different kind of king. “Instead of using his position to gain things for himself, Christ used it to give to others.” **
Lord Jesus, I call you Lord, not despite your humble, serving life and death, but because of it. As I worship you, send your Spirit to grow more of your self-giving love in my heart. Amen.
One of my favorite athletes in the world is Eliud Kipchoge. Eliud is a Kenyan runner who most consider to be the best marathon runner of all time. He most recently shattered the marathon world record by 30 seconds, finishing the Berlin marathon course in 2:01:09. He won gold at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic marathons, and has won the London marathon and Berlin marathon a record 4 times each. Unofficially, Eliud has broken the 2-hour mark at the marathon distance, running it in 1:59:40. That’s 26.2 miles in under 2 hours, people. If you aren’t into running, that’s ok. Trust me when I tell you, those times are superhuman. Oh, and by the way, Eliud is 37, so there’s that.
In the world of sports there are always discussions about who is the GOAT (the Greatest of All Time). This is debated almost ad nauseam. In the world of running, Eliud is most definitely the GOAT. His accomplishments are truly incomparable.
Everyone wants to know how a GOAT does it, right? Being a running nerd, I have read everything there is to read about Eliud. I’ve studied his training regimen in detail, researched how he fuels, and analyzed all of his races. Through this process, I made an unexpected discovery. Turns out, the thing that makes Eliud truly great actually has nothing to do with running. It’s that he is humble. In every interview, in every piece I read about him, this is the theme.
When he wins, he doesn’t taunt his rivals or belittle his competition. In fact, most other runners refer to him as a great friend, older brother, father figure. Humble. On his social media, he lifts others up, expresses gratitude, says thank you. Humble. In interviews, humble. He still trains in Kenya, living a spartan life with his family, spending as much time training young runners as he does on his own training. Humble. He houses and feeds others, working on a farm when he isn’t running. Humble.
I found two quotes from Eliud that I find myself referring to often. The first is in response to a win at the London marathon: “The more you are humble, the more you become successful. The more you have pride, the more you can fall. It is better to be humble and succeed for a long time.” And from another recent interview: “In life, the idea is to be happy. So, I believe in a calm, simple, and low-profile life. You live simple, you train hard and live an honest life. Then you are free.”
I know for a fact that I will never, ever, no matter how much research and training I do, be able to run a marathon as fast as Eliud does. But the humble part, that I can train for and try my very best to do. In fact, for the BE Campaign (and after), what would happen if we all put some energy into training to be the GOAT–the Greatest of All Time at being more Just, Kind, and Humble? What a world this would be. Are you with me? Lace up those running shoes and let’s go!
* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon(The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 101-103). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Jerry L. Sumney, study note on Philippians 2:6 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 377 NT.
*** Greek insights from I-Jin Loh and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1977, pp. 59-60.