‘Christ Jesus…emptied himself’ (Philippians 2:5,7 NRSV)
When we think of what it means to be God, we often think in terms of ‘authority’. God is God because he is the all-powerful one who is the creator of all things and the one who rules everything. This is a true and an appropriate way to speak of what it means to be God.
But the Bible also shows us that to be God is as much about self-emptying and self-giving as it is about authority.
Theologians call this ‘self-emptying’ kenosis, a Greek word meaning ‘emptying’ found in Philippians 2:7.
This word kenosis has been used for centuries to refer to the ‘emptying’ that happened to God the Son when he became man. In other words it has referred to the humiliation of the Son in becoming a limited human being for our sake.
But more and more it is being recognised that kenosis or emptying shouldn’t just be used to speak of God the Son; rather kenosis is an attribute of God as Father, as Son and as Spirit.
To speak of self-emptying and self-giving helps us to describe every member of the godhead and is foundational to God’s identity. As Michael Jinkins says, ‘It is not too much to say that the fullness of God consists in God’s self-emptying, God’s power to give up God’s very life for the sake of others, indeed of every other.’
God is love because he gives of himself for the sake of others. (1 John 3:16; 4:716)
Kenosis therefore helps us understand who God is; both who he is for us and who he is within himself as Father, Son and Spirit. God is kenotic, that is self-emptying and self-giving, in his relationship to us and in his relationship within himself.
Towards us in ‘the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.’ (2 Corinthians 8:9) This is the good news of kenosis for humanity.
While in his own being each member of the godhead empties himself in order to exalt another member. This is the interpenetration of love within the being of God that we are called to participate in.
In subsequent reflections we will look at how Father, Son and Spirit give of themselves both for our sake and for the sake of each other. One God, revealed to us as Father, Son and Spirit, who is self-emptying and self-giving in his very being.
In preparation, let’s turn our thoughts to gratitude that we love and trust a God who is self-giving. A God who loves us enough to empty himself for us; who gave himself for us in creation, who gave himself for us on the cross and continues to give of himself to us by his Spirit.
Our loving God, Father, Son and Spirit, thank you for giving of yourself to us.
Have a good week reflecting on the Kenosis of God.