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.
There have been lots of charismatic and visionary leaders and CEOs throughout history, but none of them come close to topping the world-changing importance of Jesus Christ. So what lessons can we learn from His example as a leader?
The first verses in the first chapter of the book of Isaiah are terrifying! In them, God uses strong language to outline the many offenses of the nation of Judah, including oppression of the poor, corrupt dealings, and blood on their hands, which have led to their being estranged from Him. He says that their religious observances have become false and worthless, and their hearts are wicked and in rebellion to God; and as a result, they are being utterly and completely defeated by their enemies.
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.
We often hear our life of faith compared to running a race or being on a journey. Countless songs, books, and sermons are based on those concepts. As a runner, I find inspiration in the verse “run with endurance the race that is set before us … looking unto Jesus.”1 But recently it came alive to me from a whole new perspective.
Many Christians who want to uphold Christ and do His work in their daily lives tend to see Him as their boss—a friendly fatherly boss, to be sure, but a boss nonetheless. He leaves instructions for them, He watches over them, He encourages and supports them, but He has an office on the top floor, and He doesn’t “get His hands dirty” in the morass of daily life.
I’m a big fan of Mike Donehey, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, and host to their video journal on YouTube. He often shares how he receives inspiration for songs he has written, or funny stories that help him better understand God and His ways. One of my favorites is where he talks about how “God is not an elephant.”1 He knows this, he says, because he met him—not God; an elephant.
Wow, that’s a lot of money, I thought.
Well, relatively speaking.
I walk through my neighborhood for errands and exercise, and I’ll often spot coins on the sidewalk or street, which I pick up.
I am not a fabrication, a figment of the imagination, or a fable. I am real—and I am what you need. I can give you comfort in place of anxiety, faith in place of fear, rest in place of struggle, peace in place of worry, happiness in place of sadness, and answers to your questions. I can be your strength, your help in time of need, your friend and companion. That doesn’t mean you will never have another problem or challenge in life, but I can help you with life’s problems.
The other day, I found myself sitting in a restaurant alone, as my friend was running late. As I waited, I decided to jot down some thoughts about what Jesus means to me and what I love most about Him. This is what I came up with: