One apostle was brash, presumptuous, prideful, and had the proverbial calling card, “Have mouth, will put both feet in”. His name was Simon Peter. When he was old he wrote from a different perspective. “Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).
Jesus illustrated the same power principle when he called for a little child and set him in the middle of his disciples. “Be converted and become like this little child or you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 9:33-35). The disciples had been arguing among themselves as to “who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom” (Mark 9:33-35). Humility is not an easy virtue to come by. In spite of the repeated lessons given by the Master no one was willing to pick up the towel and wash the feet of his fellow apostles.
In the shadow of the cross and the coming events in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took the towel, girded himself, kneeled and washed his own disciples’s feet. He serviced the feet of Judas who had already agreed to betray his Lord for the price of a common thief. He washed the feet of James and John, the brothers who were called ‘the sons of thunder’. They may have had racing stripes on their camels. Simon was the only one who objected when Jesus knelt to wash his feet. Jesus said, “If I do not wash your feet you have no part with me” (John 13:6). When he had finished washing feet he sat down and asked an obvious question. “Do you know what I have done unto you?” They didn’t!
The answer was powerful and strident. “If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet . . . If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13).
Jesus, the Lamb of God, graphically illustrated humility in the final assembly with his apostles. See the Son of God, the Lord of glory, Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, bowing before his disciples, even Judas, to wash their feet. Washing feet is a Christian virtue, not a commandable church ordinance.
Humility is not what you think it is. We often treat the effect as if it were the cause. Service is but the effect. It may come from a heart of humility or one flattened with humiliation. Motive makes the martyr not the fire! Humility is not self destruction, it is self surrender! To increase or lessen the price does change the actual worth of the commodity.
“I’m nothing!” “Don’t bother about me!” “I really don’t count!” “I’m used to being abused!” “I don’t have any talent!” “I’m just no good! These words belong to the vocabulary of a humanistic, modern sick society, who claims humility, but misdefines it, misunderstands it and just misses the real meaning of the word. Self pity and regret is regurgitated humility, the throw up kind. In answer to the question, “Doctor, do I have an inferiority complex?” An honest physician could reply, “No, you’re just inferior!” True humility has no relation to self pity. It bears no regrets and has abandoned self in the sacrifice and service of others. It is outgoing and strong, not small or unimportant. It is the opposite of a fatalistic “I’m nothing, just a lamb for the slaughter” philosophy. To the contrary, it gives to fallen man his first actual glimpse of his own self worth and importance.
William Channing (1810-1884) said it well. “To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable and wealthy. Not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages; with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to do so with boldness and bravery, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.”
Humility is not learned from books. There is no “Humility #101” in university. It is the greatest of all virtues, the most marvelous power that God gives to man. Seek it early. Pray for it daily. Welcome and receive it with joy and gratitude. When you think you have it, you just lost it. It’s the controlling power, not one to be manipulated by self interest. The cost is seen in a simple four letter word when Jesus said, “If any man would be my disciple, let him DENY himself and take up his cross, and follow me”(Mark 8:34). So let it be written – so let it be done.