Christ was the master of humility, especially if you believe He was God. I guess, actually, if you don’t believe He was God, He wouldn’t seem very humble at all, given His claims of being God. But then if you can put aside those claims, He would appear humble either way given His treatment of others.
Some might say this was just His nature as God; I say it was His discipline as He had adopted humanity for Himself. I say God even initially taking the weight of humanity upon Himself was an act of self-discipline. He forced Himself, as opposed to others, for the next 33 years. My reasoning:
Look at John 2, where He turned water into wine. His Mom pointed out to Him that the host had run out of wine. He objected, explaining to her that it wasn’t time to expose his authority; she basically ignored His objection and told the servants to do what He said. He did what she requested. What was this, other than humble obedience to His mother. He forced Himself, rather than insisting on His own will.
I guess there is an exception to just about every rule though, isn’t there? Just after the wine tasting in Cana, he stayed a few days with friends and family in Capernaum before making the trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. When He arrived at the Temple, He found merchants and money changers in the temple courts. This is when He forces them out. As far as I can tell, this happened twice: once at the beginning of his ministry (John 2) and once at the end (Matt. 21, Mark 11, & Luke 19). My point is, however, that these are the only times Christ ever forced anyone to do anything – the only times He insisted on His way. And that is His character. He demonstrates this characteristic throughout time. He insists that the Sacred is not not desecrated and will take fierce action to protect it, but the rest is man’s prerogative.
When the Israelites wanted a king, rather than the prophets and judges God had been providing, He gave them their will, rather than forcing Himself on them. (1 Sam. 8)
But when they treated the Ark of the Covenant casually, bad things happened. Awful things.
Then again, when Christ met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), or the woman caught in adultery (John 8), he gently corrected but did not punish or condemn:
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This all seems very gracious of the Creator, and maybe we even appreciate His grace, until we look at it from a different angle. And then it seems outrageous, but it’s the same grace. . .
Here’s the other angle. Priests behaving badly. No, atrociously. Inexcusably. And yet, to the common eye, it seems to be excused. This hurts my brain. God should force His will here, on these sinners – these extraordinarily hypocritical fiends! But He doesn’t. Not yet.
Perhaps even more sadly, it’s been going on forever (well, almost). Look at Judges 19, but beware, it will anger you. But wait, before we look at Judges, let’s look at Leviticus to establish a couple of ground rules for Jewish Priests:
7 “‘They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God.
10 “‘The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt[b] or tear his clothes. 11 He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, 12 nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the Lord.
13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.’”
Stay with me. I know Leviticus is weird stuff, but I do have a point – I promise. Now Judges 19:
19 In those days Israel had no king. (Before God granted their wish with Saul)
Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.
5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.
9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”
12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.”14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin.15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”
18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.[a] No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”
20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused herthroughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”
SPEAK UP IS RIGHT! The Levite priest was setting the example then for the priests today. The audacity! Where is the righteousness? The holiness?
In God Alone.
While I expect His grace and I am comforted by it in some situations, it makes me indignant – livid – in others. I want to have a sit down chat with Him, but then He reminds me that He is God, and I am not. This hurts my mind.
How can God allow this to go unchecked? From the time of the Jewish Judges up to today? I soon as I pound my fist and demand justice, His voice says “I want mercy, not sacrifice.”
“But how long must your mercy be extended?” I exclaim. “How many have to suffer?”
“Get the log out of your own eye,” He says.
And I’m done, except I’m not raping people while I claim the holiness of the priesthood.
He doesn’t force Himself, even on people who force themselves, even when I think He should. Because . . . Freewill. Because:
Forced respect isn’t respect at all.
Forced love isn’t love in the least.
Forced allegiance is a far cry from loyalty.
Forced religion is bad faith.
He doesn’t force Himself on others so much as He forces Himself to extend mercy and grace. But He does have a limit. That limit is how we treat what is sacred. His House, His Son. His name. It all hurts my brain, but He is God and I am not. And that’s a good thing.