You've probably heard the phrase What would Jesus do? before. Maybe you've even read the 1896 book it comes from or sported the trendy bracelet made famous in the 1990s. As wonderful as that phrase is, I bet you've discovered that actually doing what Jesus would do is hard.
To really answer the question What would Jesus do? you first have to ask, What has Jesus done? Paul answered that question in Philippians 2:5-8, a text that gives us four characteristics of the One who gave up His glory as God and became a man:
1. His divinity. Paul began, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God" (vv. 5-6). Form doesn't refer to outward form but essence, nature, or character, something that doesn't change. So Paul was saying that Jesus always has been and presently continues to be in very essence God (see John 1:1-3; 14:9).
2. His humility. Paul went on to write, "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God" (v. 6). In other words, Jesus didn't think equality with God was something to be clutched tightly and never let go. Verse 7 says He "made Himself of no reputation." In the Greek, this means to empty of contents or pour out. Jesus emptied Himself not of deity, but of the privileges and prerogatives of deity, because He was thinking of others. His attitude was one of unselfish concern (see vv. 3-4).
3. His humanity. "Taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (vv. 7-8). This is the incarnation. Jesus chose to be fully God and fully man—undiminished deity and unprotected humanity. That means when He was born in Bethlehem, He entered into a permanent physical body from which there was no escape. When He died, He died physically. When He rose from the dead, He rose physically. And when He comes back, He will come back physically.
4. His desirability. Going back to the beginning of this passage, Paul wrote, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (v. 5), then he gave the description we just looked at. So here's the application: if you desire to follow Jesus, then "in lowliness of mind…esteem others better than [yourself]" (v. 3)—humbly serve others, just as Jesus did (see Matthew 16:24; 20:28). Paul wasn't describing the incarnation just to reveal theological truth, but so we could be wowed and come to have the same humble, serving attitude toward people that Jesus had.
The incarnation, then, should become the motivation for our demonstration of loving service. True humility doesn't stay in the mind; it moves to the hands and feet. Remember, it's not What would Jesus think? but What would Jesus do? Jesus didn't just think good, humble thoughts up in heaven; He came and He served. So whatever your position at home or work or among the people in your life, follow Jesus' example by not just thinking but acting like Him. You won't be able to follow Him in His deity, but you can follow Him in humility.