It was my birthday and I was returning a phone call from one of my relatives, but to my surprise, I didn’t recognize the voice that answered. The woman on the other end sounded groggy and weak, as though she was sick or had just woken up, or for some reason seemed to barely have the energy to respond. “No, you must have the wrong number. There’s no one here by that name.”
If I were to ask you to describe Jesus’ ministry to people, what would you say? It’s an important question, because He’s called us to be His representatives in this world, and we need to consider how we can best reflect His love as we follow in His footsteps.
One key element in our pursuit of Christlikeness is emulating the humility of Jesus. In the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans, humility was seen as a negative trait. It denoted a subservient attitude on the part of someone considered to be of a lower class. It was seen as a cowed attitude, one of self-belittlement or degradation. The honor-shame culture of that time exalted pride, and humility was seen as undesirable.
The Gospels describe Jesus being whipped, beaten, and then nailed to a cross. As He hung there, waiting to die, some of His last words were “Father, forgive them.”1 Forgiveness was His response to an unjust trial, being lashed by a whip with weighted strands that lacerated the skin, inflicting unimaginable pain, having spikes hammered through His hands and feet, and being left to die on the cross in agony. While on the one hand, His reaction is very surprising, it also makes perfect sense when we read what Jesus taught about forgiveness throughout His ministry. He not only taught it—He embodied it, both in His life and His death. He practiced what He preached.
Unselfishness isn’t just about giving money. Sometimes it’s easier to give money than to give of ourselves. To give our time, attention, sympathy, understanding, and prayers to someone else, we have to be the “real deal.” We have to reach out, to understand, to feel compassion, and to do something about it. Often it’s those sacrifices of time that really count—such as when we give up our day off to participate in a local charity’s work or to visit someone who is sick.
Have you ever experienced some particular problem or pain that surprised you by how debilitating it was? Perhaps it was a sore toe or an earache that outwardly seemed small, but it made your day a major struggle. Then along comes someone who says, “I get infections in my ear all the time, and it’s uncomfortable but I don’t let it bother me. You just need to stay positive and keep going.” Well, though we do need to strive to “give thanks in all circumstances,”1 trying to keep your head above water may be difficult for you at these times.
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874–1922) was an Irish explorer who is best remembered for his Antarctic expedition of 1914–1915 in the ship Endurance, described in his book South. Less known is that Shackleton had an unseen source of strength to draw from—his faith.
There is a story, versions of which can be found on several websites, about the world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. It illustrates a beautiful principle about God’s grace and power, how He can take whatever we have to offer Him in this life and make it into something beautiful. I’d like to recount it for you.