As Believers, we all want to do the right thing…to use practical wisdom and our moral compass to seek out God’s ultimate plan and purpose for our life. So how can we stay the course? I Corinthians 15:33 gives us the best advise – “Bad company corrupts good character.” For it’s very hard to remain humble and unpretentious in spirit when you only hang around with people that are arrogant, haughty, and vain. You may think you’re not being affected by their proud disposition…but more is rubbing off than you think.
When Jesus came to earth He made the greatest sacrifice of self-abnegation and self-denial possible. He humbled Himself and renounced His Divinity. In other words, Jesus went out of Himself in order to enter into fellowship with us. So why are we so against doing the work to enter into relationship with Him? We’d like Jesus to just save, change, and sanctify us without lifting a finger in the process. Or we’d rather bargain with Him first – (“You do this for me first God, and maybe then I’ll start working on myself.”) The bottom line is that we also must go out of ourselves in order to enter into a right relationship with God…and waiting around until He does all the work in our lives (that we need to be doing) will never happen.
Jesus wasn’t cocky or arrogant. Nor was He condescending, even though He had every right to act in this manner. Just imagine, God came down from heaven and willingly became nothing. He humbled Himself to the lowest of social status…a slave or servant, as an example for us to follow. Servant-hood is probably one of the hardest things to do and do well. Our selfish human nature would rather be waited on, rather than wait on others. And the whole humility and obedience thing is in direct contradiction with everything the world tells us to do. But it all starts with our attitude as the verse says. For we can bring under submission our bad attitudes and then take on the role of servant for His glory. We can extend His grace and mercy with genuine love and concern if we become humble and obedient… with Jesus as our guide.
Elsewhere in Mark, Jesus brought home this point when He said, ” If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) But having a servant’s heart goes against our grain. We’d much rather be honored and have people serve us than swallow our pride and do for others. But we need to remember that the most important thing that comes out of a servant’s heart is joy. For when we put others ahead of ourselves…we’re putting our priorities in proper perspective… Jesus first –Others second – Yourself last.
In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
Humans are funny…we get caught in something, and we’re sorry…not sorry for what we did…but rather sorry we got caught. We make a big emotional show…but there’s no humility or remorsefulness involved in our actions. Psalm 51:17 reminds us of what God really wants from us…not a showy display of emotions that look good to those who are watching, but lack the brokenness of spirit that comes from a truly regretful heart. Rather, God desires from us authenticity, humility, and taking responsibility for our actions.
Christianity is not a competition sport, but we sure can make it that way. The Lord tells us to serve one another with love and humility…but we’d rather make it a contest to see who can be the most spiritual…and the one whose the most highly respected and honored by others. So what we’ve done is taken the Lord’s words of submitting to one another… and done the opposite. Instead of being accountable to God with respect and honor towards fellow Believers…we approach these interactions with envy, competition, and how we can make ourselves look more saintly. Sadly, this “holier-than-thou” attitude is contrary to all of Christ’s teachings, and is actually willful disobedience to His Word.