1 Corinthians 13
There is a line of balance somewhere between humility and boldness. But life as a disciple of Jesus Christ calls for both humility AND boldness. Every day, situations arise which call me to DO SOMETHING !! Sometimes I leap into action... and end up making a mess like the proverbial “bull in the china shop.” Other times, I shrink back from challenges, and end up with regrets and “what-ifs.” I personally have difficulty getting the balance right. But I imagine I am not the only one.
At the humble extreme, I may think, “I am only one person. Other people have more information or wisdom or strength or authority than I do. I should just stay out of this.” And I’m often wrong.
At the bold extreme, I may say to myself, “You can do this ! You have what it takes— just do it !” And I’m often wrong.
Then there are the times when I try to finesse it— when I try to walk the knife-edge between caution and courage, between passive and active. But I never get it perfectly right.
And then there’s Jesus. Jesus always got it right.
But, he also got crucified.
Let’s take a closer look at how Jesus balanced his humility with his boldness.
In terms of wisdom, strength, and authority, nobody ever had more than Jesus: all-knowing, all-powerful Son of God.
And yet, as we see his story unfold, he humbled himself over and over in his human life. From his birth to a poor girl from the boondocks, to the manger in the stable, to his narrow escape from the country as a refugee, Jesus certainly had a humble beginning as a human. Then, in his career as a traveling healer—teacher—preacher, Jesus walked the humble path: he had no home of his own, he ate what people gave him, he spent his time among the lower-class people, and he was looked down upon by the high-class people. Ultimately, Jesus suffered a most humiliating death, beaten and tortured by his own people and publicly executed by the Roman occupation government. Humility, humility, humility.
But then there’s Jesus’ other side: his bold side.
In the lesson we’ll hear this week from Luke’s gospel, Jesus stood up in the midst of his hometown people and declared that he was anointed by God for missions of healing and liberation for the brokenhearted, disabled, and downtrodden. When his hometown people began to make nice noises about his reading and speaking skills, Jesus launched into a wild proclamation: he told them that they, his hometown people, would NOT be the focus of his ministry, but that, like the ancient prophets Elijah and Elisha, he would perform miracles for foreigners. His hometown people responded by running him out of town, even trying to kill him.
That was early in Jesus’ career ! Was he wrong to be so bold and prophetic, upsetting his people ?
I find it interesting that that particular episode ends mysteriously: But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:30)
As we read the gospels, over and over, Jesus chose some moments to stand up and challenge “the powers that be,” but he chose other moments to quietly go his way. At one certain point, Jesus announced to his disciples that it was time for him to go to Jerusalem and be handed over to the authorities who would abuse him and kill him. And there he went.
What a brilliant, crazy combination of lowliness and high-handedness.
Trying to understand the mystery behind Jesus’ way, I submit two observations.
† Jesus prayed a lot. We see this especially in Luke’s gospel (for example, 3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18 and 28-29, 11:1, 22:32 and 39-46, 23:34 and 46)
I love to share this advice from Patrick Keifert:
1. There will never be enough time in your life to do all the good that you think ought to be done.
2. There will be plenty of time to do all the good that God intends for you to do.
3. A regular practice of spiritual disciplines [such as prayer] is essential to discerning the difference.
Such spiritual discernment is required, to be both properly humble and properly bold.
† Jesus overcame death itself. Once we, his disciples, “get” that, we may imitate him better.
Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever !
He who deigned for me to die,
lives, the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust:
Jesus is my hope and trust.
words of Christian F Gellert, translated by Philip Schaff