Bold humility

Good Friday is the story of God’s humility.

Jesus—the Son who is one with the Father and Spirit—was mocked, despised, and crucified by the civil and religious leaders of his day. For his followers it was an upside-down event. They believed he was the Messiah who came to save Israel … and dying wasn’t an advertisement for salvation.

Yet Christ’s humility was—and still is—a display of God’s boldness that too few ever recognize. We who follow Jesus have this moment to reflect on the freedom he pioneered for us in his death.

But how does a crucifixion solve sin? And how does it address our own status as sinners? So that we get to live boldly through the Son’s humility?

Let’s consider the dynamics of a playground argument. One child tells another, “You’re dumb!”

“No, I’m not! I have better grades than you do. And you never answer Mrs. Jone’s questions right. Everyone knows you’re the dumbest kid in class!”

“Oh yeah! You’re so dumb you don’t even know how to skateboard. Or how to play soccer!”

It’s a painful reality many of us have faced. Someone tells us we’re inadequate. And we defend ourselves, often by counterattacks. Then in later years we adopt more mature strategies but with the same battle about “who’s ‘best’ among us?” And with that we gravitate to more successful roles in life.

This reflects a human ambition for security and significance. Each of us wants to be respected. But this instinct has a twist if we want to be more significant than others. And this is where the call in Philippians 2:3 hits home: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Paul set this as Christ’s profile in the following verses: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped … [instead] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

It may seem like a reversal, then, when a few verses later Paul reminded readers of a coming day when, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…”

So, is the prior portrayal—of Christ’s humility—a temporary and practical posture meant to collect followers? Something he abandoned in returning to his resplendent divine standing?

A better answer is that the “god” of the serpent’s promise, “you can be like God,” is upside-down to God’s true nature. The Devil replaced God’s actual character with his own version of deity. He always seeks to be worshipped. And then he devours all who follow him. The true God, by contrast, “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” to provide salvation. The false god offers the black hole of self. And the real God is a fountain of eternal life, with the love shared by the Father and Son poured out by the Spirit in believers’ hearts.

And, by extension, the devil works to deceive those he leads—the “sons of disobedience” in Ephesians 2:2—by offering the blandishments of a self-fulfilled life. This self-love is only displaced by a truly godly life when a love for God and neighbors is birthed and grows.

So, on the first good Friday Jesus displayed his bold humility by entering the realm of devoured souls—into death—where we were all once captive. There he swallowed our death. And now his sheep hear his voice and follow him as captives set free.

What’s more, our destination is to be united with Christ and “seated at the right hand of God” in his heavenly realm. No longer as slaves to Satan and sin, but now as sons and children of God. And while we live here, still on earth, we live with the Spirit’s love in us bearing the fruit of his “upside-down” life.

Then, as we display the bold humility of God’s selfless heart shared by Jesus, we no longer need to compete with each other. Instead we’re assured that the true ‘best one among us’ was elevated on Easter by his resurrection. And his loving kindness is never-ending.

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