17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17–21 ESV)
“Our lowly body.” Plural. Not “my lowly body” or “each believer’s lowly body,” but “our lowly body” — τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν — the body of lowliness or humiliation.
Paul is not speaking of personal or individual transformation here, not describing yours or my best or most wonderful selves, but of the church, the assembly, the εκκλησια. We, the called-out people of god, are transformed, resurrected, made glorious in the way Jesus was transfigured while on the mountaintop with Moses with Elijah or when he walked out of the tomb. We are changed together. And it is in being together, gathering together, breaking bread and drinking wine together, proclaiming the truth of Christ and bearing witness to his love for the world together, that we are transformed. From humiliation to glory. Raised high.
But the power … oh, but the power that transforms us is horrible indeed. For it is the Cross that transforms us. Just as Christ was, we the church are raised high to a place of “honor” and “glory” on an instrument of torture and death. A method of execution that insists all look upon it and tremble before the power of the people — and their state — that so willingly terrorizes and kills like this. To hang on that Cross, to die such a death, is the very thing that enables Jesus to “subject all things to himself.” The world, and all that is in it, is his. Because he died to it.
Because he died for it.
To be an enemy of the Cross at first blush seems an embrace of life. Who wants a painful, tortured, humiliating death? What power can there possibly be in that? What glory? How does the Cross transform us into anything except failures, bloody and cold to the touch at the end of the day?
But such is the Cross of Christ that his death redeems the whole and makes possible eternal life. We who fail have succeeded. And we who die will live. Forever.
We who are nothing, were nothing, had nothing, become everything. Because Jesus reached out and commanded us: “Follow me.”