Sunday, December 19, 2010

Clothed with His Humility

3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

I Pet.5:5
Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

umility. The enemy of western culture, capitalism, and politics in general. And sadly the church has adopted a superficial specimen that barely passes the comparison test, much less the Christ test. While we elbow our way around the marketplace in an attempt to make more, we have taken on the mantle of the humanistic “can do” spirit and have left the mind of Jesus Christ.
But the apostle doesn’t just suggest we be humble, he exhorts us to be “clothed with humility”. What in the world does being clothed with humility look like? And since most of us show no remarkable difference in our speech and lives, does that mean that most people, saved and unsaved, are clothed with humility? Or does it mean that being clothed with humility is so very rare that it has become a curiosity rather than a Christ trait that should find a home within us?
So often the church bellows about morality and political issues and demands her public platform. When Jesus is maligned by secular sources we return evil for evil and stand upon the shoulders of the founding fathers rather than remaining silent as the Lamb who was brought to the slaughter. We hear a lot about “losing our rights” and believers attend rallies in order to force the issue and squeal with indignation. Yes, you will find very few churches that even strive to be clothed with humility. But let us go a major step further in ferreting out just what it means to be clothed with humility.
Paul addresses it in his letter to the church at Philippi. His basic premise in the second chapter is a genuine concern for the welfare of other over your own needs. But in order to bring that principle home, Paul uses the supreme template, the Lord Jesus Himself. And he begins with the incarnation. Would you submit to plastic surgery that would make you into a striking resemblance of Charles Manson? Adolf Hitler? Ted Bundy? Just the thought of such a thing is repulsive. But that is infinitely more palatable than a holy God allowing Himself to be made into the likeness of sinful and rebellious man. The gulf that had to be crossed cannot be fully understood by those of us on this side of that gulf. We can understand sin much easier than we can understand holiness. But even our understanding of sin is shallow and allows many loopholes that ease the violence it does to the Creator.
But it isn’t just the shame of being made in the likeness of a fallen man, it also entails the demonstrable releasing of His equal standing with God, or at least part of it. I confess a mystery here and an incomplete knowledge of such things, but Paul clearly tells us that Jesus released His hold on heaven in order to come to this earth as a man. Of course when we discuss such things we are like a man born blind discussing the color red, or even describing color itself.
The incarnation was an astounding exhibition of humility which confounded the angels themselves. The answer as to “why” has to be love, but that kind of love is foreign to earthlings except in Christ. But how does the Incarnate God show His love toward us? Will he pat us on the head and whisper sweet words of affirmation? Will He write soaring love songs that make us delirious with emotion? But Paul, in his exhortation concerning humility, points to one thing. The cross.
While the Incarnation was exhilarating, the cross was confounding and even a little embarrassing. This is the Creator God? He could not even save Himself and yet He claimed the I AM status? In the end, the greatest revelation of humility is found in redemption. Paul states that reducing oneself to nothing and becoming a willing figure of death so that others may live is the epitome of humility. And therein lies the conundrum. How do we take what Christ displayed at Golgotha and incorporate that into our lives in such a way that it becomes observable to others?
Just lowering your voice, or letting a car into line, cannot be considered humility at the cross level. Humility is different than being just courteous. It goes further than meekness and gentleness. All of those things are surely evident in humility, but being clothed with the humility exhibited by the Lamb of God’s sacrifice goes much deeper than even the sum of those parts. And if we truly desire to humble ourselves, then we must be crucified in the likeness of our Master. God does not just map out a pragmatic plan, as is so popular in today’s Christian world of stocking stuffers and chic quick fixes. Being clothed with the humility of Christ requires much.
It cannot be achieved without sacrifice, inconvenience, and complete disregard for your own self esteem. Retribution can never be considered, and your “enemies” must be front and center as objects of your servanthood. If you do not place a watch at your mouth’s door you will undermine your spiritual journey. You will have to speak less and listen more. And you will have to significantly hone your spiritual ears to hear the Holy Spirit. Your needs, your desires, your wants, and your entire situation must be subordinate, and many times sacrificed completely. The needs of others must be your constant concern.
Everything you buy must be approved by the Spirit. You must allow that Spirit to retrain your mind and heart to seek the things that enhance God’s kingdom. This is a monumental task in a culture that treats narcissism like an attribute. And on top of it all, you must resist becoming proud of your humility and judging others who do not seem to care about being humble. If you begin a journey into judging your entire life will be consumed.
“That seems so very difficult,” you say. It depends upon your willingness to pray. It depends upon the time you devote to television as opposed to the time you spend in prayer. It depends upon how badly you want to be like Jesus. It depends upon what you are willing to sacrifice. It depends if you allow the Spirit to resurrect in you a profound thirst for God’s Word again. It depends upon whether Jesus can be Lord over your entire life, every day, every hour, and every moment.
Although the Amish people are not evangelistic, their humility isthe one quality that draws much attention in the midst of a culture that is antithetical to their lifestyle. They are humble people, and that alone draws people from all over the world just to gaze at such a curiosity. But imagine what would happen if God’s people, who were living within the culture, showed such crucified humility that those around us could not just ignore us. What would actually happen?

Christ would be magnified.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post.
And yet...I know some Amish people.
Some of them are beautiful! Such sweet, giving, loving people.
And then there are those who are prideful of their life in comparison to the "English" (non-Amish).
And those who have control within the community who use that control to hurt others.
Then there have been those accused and convicted of incest...
They are just sinners caught up in a cult in need of salvation.
They need our prayers and the gospel.