James A. Washington

I went to church intent on hearing a particular preacher, only to find him absent from the pulpit. The guest minister’s sermon on humility was a stark reminder that’s it is all about the message and never the messenger. Fortunately for me, that was one of the spiritual lessons I learned from the minister who saved my life, coincidentally, the one whom I was going to hear on that Sunday.

Humility, as the guest pastor was trying to clarify and explain, should be viewed from Philippians 2. That entire chapter is devoted to Paul’s message to the Church at Philippi regarding “imitating Christ’s humility.” As I listened, humility went from a concept of docile behavior to a fact of faith and strength of conduct. By that I mean, it was made clear that Christ chose to consider Himself at best equal to, if not lesser than, his fellow man.

Remember, we’re talking about God here. He consciously chose to make Himself human in order to serve His divine purpose.

The text tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”

Now my recollection of Christ says that’s a pretty good description of how He looked upon His duty and pretty much what got Him killed. Isn’t it interesting that the most dangerous, therefore the most powerful and important, thing you can do in life is to care about someone else more than you care about yourself?

Paul teaches us that it is our fundamental responsibility, as Christians, to be united in our effort to emulate Jesus’ denunciation of status, pride, ego and self. Surely, if anyone had a right to be arrogant it was the living Son of God. You try being the walking talking Word and deliberately transform yourself into a mere mortal human being. Become Christ and die willingly on the cross by the hands of mere men.

Fortunately, as the minister made clear, Paul is not asking us to do the impossible. He let us know that our goal is service unto man. Put a lid on what we think of ourselves and our prideful independence in favor of our collective interdependence upon each other and the Almighty. Christ died to save us all, and here in Philippi Paul tells us that our conduct must be rooted in the following truth: out of this thing called humility, Christ saved the world.

Are we better than Him? Think it through. If you look down your nose at anyone for any reason, if you truly think you’re better than anyone else, then you think you’re better than Jesus, who thought himself no better and even less than you. He died in service to us, you and me. Do something good for someone else today simply because you can.

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