Monday, February 25, 2013

When We Humble Ourselves...

In my striving to be like Jesus, and in my desire to focus on what I'm getting right, I fail to pay attention to how "infinitely far away we are from resembling him." I nurture a toxic spiritual pride when I ruminate how far I have come in following Jesus and trying to be like him. I end up belittling the actual teachings of Christ and gloss over my many sins. Like pride. Or anger.

"It must be firmly maintained that Christ did not come to the world only to set an example for us. If that were the case we would have law and works-righteousness again.

He comes to save us and in this way be our example. His very example should humble us, teach us how infinitely far away we are from resembling him.

When we humble ourselves, then Christ is pure compassion. And in our striving to approach him, he is again our very help.

It alternates: when we are striving, then he is our example; and when we stumble, lose courage, then he is the love that helps us up. And then he is our example again."
~ Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations, pg 223

The striving to be like Jesus will produce a profound humility in us, for we will only understand how profoundly and "infinitely far away we are from resembling him" as we seek to do that very thing.

Like Peter attempting to walk on the water in the effort to imitate and follow Jesus, it was his stumbling over the stormy waves, losing courage and needing the strong hand of Jesus to save him from drowning. But Peter got out of the boat! And when he began to sink fast, he did not hesitate to call out in fear and anger to Jesus to rescue him!

What does it mean to be humbled by Jesus's example to us? And how do we approach him?

I suppose we must first take Jesus example to us very seriously. Apart from Jesus, we will have no inclination to believe or obey his instructions or follow his Way. It is too difficult. It requires too much courage and truth and love.

And yet my striving to do so, tentatively getting out of the boat and angrily crying out for help when I sink is both humbling and a demonstration of trust. With an infinite gap between my way and the Way of Jesus, there can be no pride in what I accomplish in imitating Christ. I will only barely perceive the mystery of the infinite distance between my life and His.

And yet when I seek to love others as imitation of His love, when I do so trusting that he has initiates the work of love, and will help me do it, and rescue me when I flail in pride and anger... it is then, having been humbled, that I can choose to approach Him on the Way. "He is the love that helps us up. And then He is our example again."

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