The older I get the more I see how hard it is for humans to get along. We fought with our siblings and neighborhood kids growing up, and we thought we’d outgrow our self-serving assumptions and temper tantrums …but as adults we are arguably worse! At least when we were kids we genuinely believed we had some growing up to do, but as adults we lock-in, and cling, to our opinions as if they were dogma. Kids don’t get their way and act like it’s the end of the world for 10 minutes, but adults take themselves so seriously that they’ll commit to resentment for eternity.
If God doesn’t invade our narcissism we’re doomed.
Thankfully, via God’s common grace, the entire world has the stories of Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Ebenezer Scrooge. The problem of people taking themselves too seriously has been thoroughly diagnosed, and the directive to be born again and become like a child has been issued …indeed we are without excuse.
But let’s suppose God chose to get really involved in this annoying and abominable mess of egotism …what would He Himself do, and how would He direct us?
Believe it or not, He Himself would not count equality with Himself a thing to be grasped, but instead He would empty Himself, by taking the form of a servant, voluntarily embracing all the limitations of being 100% human. And being found in human form, He would humble Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the intensely shameful form of death on a Roman cross.
“What a waste!” you say. “What a useless and weak way to live!” you say. “This just goes to show …humility doesn’t work!” you say.
Wait. Listen. …the Hebrew word for wisdom is ‘Shema’ which mean’s LISTEN!
The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. 1For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of Christ crucified to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
God’s choice to become human, and a lowly, utterly humble, human at that – had the outcome of highest exaltation and the bestowal of the name above all names on Him
Now you’re thinking, that might work for God, but certainly God wouldn’t expect me to follow in His footsteps!?!@?!!?
Well, it’s your call. If you don’t want to be a friend and follower of Jesus, then certainly you will decline God’s invitation to humility. But if there is any true fellowship with God, or any encouragement in Christ, or any participation in the Spirit, then you will invariably find this humility mindset governing and guiding your life. Having been impacted and influenced by the love of God, you will do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility you will count others more significant than yourselves. You will look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your paradigm and pursuit of greatness will be servitude! And your quest for first place will look like striving for the sincere status of slave.
If you want to explore the profound intimacy with God via embracing the life of humility, and if you’re intrigued with how the power of God impacts the world through your weakness (i.e. humility) I invite you to read Nicholas Denysenko’s article, “Engaging My Opponent: Spiritual Healing For Broken Public Discourse.”
Here’s a teaser:
Like the gospel of the cross, human humility is foolishness to the world because refusing to exalt one’s self seems to cede all competitive advantage to one’s opponents. Jesus spoke clearly about the preponderance of narcissism. He recognized the egocentrism of the Pharisees, who “love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces” (Matthew 23:6-7). No institution or profession is exempt from this crisis of discourse—not even the Church. Institutions systematize incentives for advancement, stimulating competition among those who want the most “exalted” position. In these scenarios, the gospel tradition of humility simply gets in the way of systems that reward not only achievements (this is a good thing), but the sycophantism and competitive positioning that make it impossible for one to truly see the other.
Turning to the gospel image of people who adopt Christ’s utter humility as a pattern would stifle the system, just as Jesus’s appearance and merciful acts in Seville threatened the religious order perfected by the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (the Grand Inquisitor knows that Jesus has “come to hinder us,” so he threatens to burn him as the “worst of heretics”). For much of Christian history and in our own time of exalting in our opponent’s humiliation, the holy tradition of Christian humility has become a heap of ashes. Adopting an identity of humility seems impossible because it has always been and remains countercultural—and it always will be.