I was young. A novice. I’d done my best, worked into the late night hours for weeks, poured out my heart on paper . . . and waited for the response. The harsh critique left me stunned. Sent me to my knees. But not before my pride was piqued and I was tempted to lash out in hurt.
Looking back now on that incident, I am thankful for my instructor’s tough response. It really was good for me to hear . . . but at the time, I felt I’d received an ugly insult.
Humility is not my flesh’s first reaction to insult, but humility is the way of Christ.
Humility goes beyond our natural tendency and requires walking in the power of the Spirit because humility calls for soft answers, gentle tones, sincere love, and yes, even showering blessing on our offender.
Why can’t we just dish out what we’ve been shown? How about that “eye for an eye” principle? That sounds pretty good when I feel my blood start to boil.
Nope, Scripture makes a clear case for humility.
Why? I think it has something to do with the gospel.
What is it about Christ that is so appealing? Even an arrogant watching world is arrested by His noble gentleness. His humility flies in the face of a “me-first,” self-centered, entitlement mentality. It is refreshingly beautiful and disarming.
I’m not talking about that brand of false humility where we try to one-up our opponent with a vastly superior “enlightened meekness” that smacks of insincerity. Walking in the humility of Christ is hard because it requires death to our pride and the ripping away of any false notions of personal goodness.
And sometimes humility requires making the hard choice to lovingly confront our offender (but that’s another blog post).
True humility is birthed through admiring and adoring the humility of Christ in such a way that we begin to take on the character of the One we love so passionately.
We love and admire His character to such an extent that we would rather die first than mar the beauty of His humility that we’re called to reflect. We can go beyond the natural when we care more about His reputation than our own. When that happens, we have a greater desire for our opponent to experience Christ through our biblical response than to throw out a harsh rebuke.
Try this exercise with me. Look at Jesus here:
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness . . .” (1 Peter 2:21–24)
Now, imagine reading that right after you’ve received a cutting remark. How will you respond to your offender?
When I read that, when I gaze intently at Him on the cross, when I adore His beautiful humility . . . how can I send out anything but blessing to my opponent? While He was enduring the humility of the cross, He was sending out His blessing to me, filthy, vile, wretched, wicked—ME! I was His enemy, yet He died for my sin that I might live in His righteousness.
It doesn’t make sense to the natural mind. It sounds crazy to the power-hungry social elite. It doesn’t come naturally—that’s why we have to go beyond the natural.
How do you normally respond to an ugly insult?