Every Christian is called to live like Jesus did – a daunting thought in many ways, but once which becomes possible as we dwell in Him. (John 15:1-7) When we look at Jesus, we see humility and obedience, and these are key qualities to be seen in our lives too.
Humility is a much misunderstood and under-rated virtue. So often, we equate humility with being trodden on, with being humiliated, with being walked over. We feel that if we are humble, we will miss out on so many things; the world today prizes assertiveness and ambition more than humility. Humility means we understand God is the master; we are His servants: ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master,’ Jesus said. (Matt 10:24) Jesus demonstrated humility in not condemning those who sinned (see John 8:1-11), in washing his disciples’ feet, even though he was the teacher. (John 13:1-17) He did this not to earn His Father’s love or to win the approval of others, but because He was secure in His identity as God’s beloved Son. When we are not sure of God’s love for us, when we doubt His goodness and plans for us, when are not convinced that He is working for our good in every situation, then we tend to become more concerned about looking after our own interests than caring for others. It’s only when we are truly sure of who we are in Christ that we can afford to care for others, that we are not motivated by selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Selfish ambition refers to the kind of electioneering or party-political intrigues we associate with governments, where people jostle for position and don’t care who they trample on in their journey upwards towards power (a bit like Francis Underwood in ‘House of Cards’.) ‘Vain conceit’ carries with it the idea that we are proud of our own achievements and also merciless in finding out other people’s faults; we view our sins leniently and other people’s without mercy. Neither is needed if we are secure in our identity as Jesus was.
Obedience is also key to living like Jesus. He said, ‘the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ (John 5:19) As we learn to lay down our own agendas and plans, we can learn obedience as Jesus did (Heb 5:8). Just as Jesus was exalted because He was prepared to be humble and obedience, this principle applies to all His followers too: ‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Matt 23:12)