The Beautiful, Appalling Secret of Jesus’ Character

What was (is) Jesus like? If he walked into my house, if I sat at his feet, how would I find him? What is he like to be near?

Foot Washing; Jesus washes disciples' feet; humility; love I long not just to know, but to experience, the answer to these questions. I have tears in my eyes even writing them.

And I have been soaking in a powerful little book—Humility by Andrew Murray—that offers me an answer and points out to me a path to even deeper intimacy with Jesus. 

According to Murray, the defining characteristic of Jesus’ personality, the thing that might strike us first if he did walk into our home, is not his love, his courage, his wisdom, his compassion, or even his faith—but his humility.

A humble God-man? Oh, yes. And nothing could make us love him more.

Murray defines humility not as thinking poorly of oneself, but as recognizing one’s utter dependence upon God—for breath, for life, for all (Humility p. 12). Humility allows us to take the only fitting place for a man or a woman before an infinite and holy God.

And Jesus lived this humility perfectly. His humility made him . . .

* Leave the glories of Heaven. “. . . though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:7-8).

* Approachable. “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples,” (Matthew 9:10).

* Courageous. Pilate asked him, “Do you not know I have authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above,” (John 19:10-11).

* Wise. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me,” (John 5:30).

* Servant-hearted. “Jesus, knowing . . . he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper . . . and began to wash the disciples’ feet,” (John 13:3-4).

Every beautiful thing we find in the person of Jesus we can trace to the purity of his humility. He’s the only man who ever lived who did not once allow pride to move him.

The rest of us live beset with the pride we chose at the Fall. If humility is the root of all virtue (p. 12), pride is the root of all sin.

Pride, in Christians, stops our trusting him, obstructs our growth in his character, and dams the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. In other words, pride keeps us and our churches spiritually weak.

Murray reminds me that left to ourselves, we are helpless to overcome this pride, the core of our sin-nature. But we can take heart in the beauty of God’s good news. If we respond to life’s indignities, challenges, and vexations by surrendering as best we are able to God—by inviting the spirit of Jesus into our humiliation and pain—what the world sees as failure, decline, or loss actually glistens as the point of deeper communion between our soul and Jesus Himself.

Our humility, even our humiliation, can be our place of becoming more deeply one with him (1 Corinthians 6:17). As Murray says, “The lowliest is the nearest to God,” (p. 29).

I feel both drawn and appalled by these truths I am writing. I want more of Jesus. I want peace and joy to saturate my life as I grow in the grace of allowing him to be all. And I see humility is the path to these things. But I am terrified of what humility might require of me. Do you feel the same?

So what to do?

Let’s meditate on the humility of Jesus wherever we find it. Read with me the gospels with new eyes, watching everywhere for evidence of his beautiful humility. And when we see it, let’s take time to worship him for what we see.

Let’s ask him for more of his Spirit. May his Spirit free us from the pride that makes us appalled, makes us afraid to grow in humility. And may his Spirit fill us so where Self has reigned, we may find more of Jesus in that place.

And let’s struggle to choose the humble path when life gives us the opportunity. Today my struggles are to face and accept the inevitable decline of aging as I move into my late forties; to choose patience and kindness instead of irritability and abruptness; to bite my tongue when I want to justify myself; and to forgive those who hurt and anger me.

Murray says the grace of God’s Spirit is like water that seeks the lowest point. He writes, “God is faithful. Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless,” (p. 32). So if we let them, our humblest moments become an invitation for more of God’s Spirit to fill us; when we lose something—our looks, our reputation, our standing, our position—we gain more of Him.

I am coming to see humility not only as the oft-overlooked secret to Jesus’ beautiful life, but as the hidden key to growing closer to him. May I, may we, have the courage to grasp it and to open the door to its path. For as Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” (Luke 14:11). Amen.

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