Paul the apostle was not afraid to be vulnerable or to humble himself before his converts and churches. In this passage, he exhorts his readers to be humble, but also shows them how.
Epaphroditus, Paul’s friend and co-worker, "was ill, near to death", writes Paul; "But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow" (v.27). Paul loved his fellow-workers in Christ; the thought of losing one through death was genuinely distressing to him and he wasn’t afraid to show it.
This perfectly matches what he writes earlier in the chapter about how, if you’re truly humble, you will "count others more significant" (v.3) and look "not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (v.4). Timothy is another example of such wonderfully human humility and love (v.20-21).
But the ultimate example of such humility is Jesus. In his hymn to Jesus (v.5-11), Paul shows that His humility makes Jesus the most human of all – indeed, Jesus embodies what a human should be.
Startlingly, Paul also says that Jesus’ humility is also the sign of His being truly God: Jesus did not humble Himself despite being God; it was because He is God that He humbled Himself.
The nature of God – and therefore of human beings who bear His image – is generous, self-giving, humble love.
Now to live the life...