The Humility of God
Uriah Heep, one of the characters in the novel, David Copperfield, is heard to say, far too frequently, “‘umble we are, ‘umble we have been, ‘umble we shall ever be.” The man who spoke those words knew nothing about humility. He only knew that servility and groveling and the appearance of humility was a great disguise for evil intentions.
But one of the central truths we learn about God from the coming of Jesus Christ is that God is by his very nature, the Humble One. Usually, of course when we list the attributes of God we list all the things that make God look powerful. But if the coming of Jesus is the coming of God, then Jesus acted just like God Himself had always acted. And God, who calls us to be humble, is actually calling us to be like Jesus and to be like Himself in this regard.
When God chose to come among us in the incarnation, he did not choose to come as we would expect God to come: in pomp and power and overwhelming grandeur. Instead, he came as a baby, born in a barn, born into the home of a peasant couple. He begins his life among us as part of a refugee family on the run. His early childhood is spent in exile in a foreign country and then in the outback of the Galilee. And when he turns 30, he does not throw off humility as though it were a cloak or a disguise. He enters into his calling as an itinerant teacher, leaving his job and its security, to become a transient, dependent upon other people for his food and shelter. And that humble style of life was no con job. He was not playing or performing the role of a humble servant. He was truly humble. He came to serve, not to be served.
On the night of the betrayal, he went a step further and threw off his outer robe, and dressed like a servant, in his underclothes, he washed the feet of his followers. The next day, the Son of God was stripped again, but this time by his enemies, and was impaled on a cross while the world witnessed his public humiliation. But he had humbled himself the night before. He had humbled himself for 30 years before that, and if the whole story were told, God had humbled himself throughout all the years of human history.
For God is the Humble One. He has always veiled his true glory. We have always despised or rejected him. We have blamed him at a thousand turns, and he has suffered it in silence. Remaining invisible and non-intrusive, he has served humanity every day of its history. There is no arrogance in God. Even His calls for us to worship him are not for his sake, but for our good, that he might free us from the damage of our self-admiration and vanity.
“O to be like thee, blessed Redeemer!”
Published in Light and Life, September-October, 2005