Saturday, December 08, 2007
What if you had no reputation? A Christmas meditation
Philippians 2:5-9 NASU
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
This passage may not usually be associated with Christmas, but for some reason that is how it comes to me this season. Look closely at the passage above, then read the quote from The Jesus Style by Gayle D. Erwin below.
“Christ Jesus . . . made himself nothing.
“He made himself nothing, he emptied himself—the great kenosis. He made himself no reputation, no image.
“I can recall my father shaking his head and repeating over and over to himself, ‘If only I knew what this meant. There is something powerful here. If I only understood it.’ Maybe that is why this Scripture has glued itself to my mind and equally disturbs me. Reputation is so important to me. I want to be seen with the right people, remembered in the right light, advertised with my name spelled right, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right kind of car, wear the right kind of clothing. But Jesus made himself of no reputation.”
Christmas in America means lots of things to lots of people.
For some it becomes a political event that pits “the true meaning of Christmas” against the bias of some against religion. For others Christmas is just another time to visit families and to pretend to get along with each other. For others Christmas is a season that involves incredible profits (or expenses) and lots of activities. For still others Christmas is simply a winter break, a time to regroup for a new year.
I know I’ve left a big group out! There are those who see Christmas as the celebration of the birth of the world’s Savior. But I want to twist the prism a bit and look at Christmas from a different angle.
Almost all of the views above look at Christmas from the perspective of what humans gain from the season. I wonder if we can look at the season as something we can offer to others, a gift of sorts.
This passage from Philippians reminds me that Christmas for Jesus wasn’t about what he would gain. In fact, he lost just about everything! He left the comfort of his Father’s place, he became a tottering, dribbling little baby, he had to learn to talk, to walk, to eat, he left his riches behind for the poverty of a manger, and ultimately he would even become sin, something he had never experienced. As Paul says, he made himself of no reputation.
Imagine what Christmas would be like this year if those of us who follow Jesus would do as Paul admonishes here and have this approach to the season. Imagine if we actually attempted to have the same attitude towards others that Jesus has towards us! What would Christmas look like if we didn’t care about what we got out of it?
Ronald Reagan is credited with the saying “There is no telling what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” We don’t like that approach though, do we? We kick against it! I mean, we deserve to be recognized, don’t we?
You came up with the idea that made the company money, shouldn’t you be rewarded? Maybe you found a problem and fixed it, and that fix saved someone’s job. Shouldn’t you be shown gratitude? Maybe you did some kindness for someone you knew couldn’t pay you back, shouldn’t you get credit for that?
Don’t we all think that we should be center stage, center of the world, the most important person in the world? How many times have you heard “I quit going to that church because MY needs weren’t being met”?
Let that sink in.
No fame, no credit, no automatic acceptance, no celebrities, and no place where who you know or what you know earns you admittance.
Jesus made himself of no reputation.
We love our awards, the acceptance of others, the glamour of being “somebody,” or the wonderful happiness of fame, don’t we?
“Don’t neglect me” is the motto of many in our society and our churches.
The motto of Christ and his followers is “No reputation.” God chooses such people to further his agenda. Will we be involved or do we like our perks too much?
In Job 1, Satan appears in God's court. Go acknowledges the good job done by Job, and asks Satan if he has noticed. Satan's response is a tough challenge: "Does Job fear God for nothing?"
Think about what the evil one is implying here. He is asking, "Will a human serve God with no expectation of something in return?"
Will humans serve God for nothing?
That hurts, doesn't it? Even the mere thought of it as a possibility smarts a bit. Surely the mighty God of the universe wouldn't expect me to show him respect and serve his purposes without expectation of payment for services rendered, right?
Will you serve God for nothing?
Can we humble ourselves to the point where we realize that God owes us nothing? Quite literally, we have done nothing to merit a reward. Even our service is a response to his continued mercy.
Will we, like Christ, humble ourselves to the point of no reputation? Are we willing to be "nobodies" in God's service, among his people, even among those who ought to "recognize" us?
What would Christmas look like this year if we (all of us) decided to give with no expectation of return? What if we humbled ourselves and expected no acknowledgement?
What can you do this Christmas season that will bless others and garnish no reputation for you? Who can you serve that can't repay you? This year let's commit ourselves to serving, giving, and loving as Christ did. Let's look for opportunities to bless others in a way that does not give us recognition. Instead of asking for things for ourselves, let's give to the needs of others.
How would that change Christmas in your circle?
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
A repeat--Jesus and the Blind Beggar
I was reading some old posts the other day, and this one really struck me. It is a devotional I wrote on the blind beggar who prayed for Jesus' attention by crying "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!" As I reread this post, I decided I ought to share it again. I wrote this about 2.5 years ago, and the truth of it still stings me a bit. So, here it is:
“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
The Jesus Prayer, a short, enigmatic statement of faith and repentance. Contained in this short phrase are some of the most powerful doctrines needed to heal the human condition.
One version of it is found in Luke 18:35-43, the story about the healing of a blind beggar. The blind beggar sat by the road. There was nothing new here. He had done this many times in his interminable suffering. He sat there. He begged. Another day in paradise.
Imagine his situation. Close your eyes for a moment and think of how he experienced life. Devoid of sight, he lived in a constant sense of blackness. Of course, his other senses were sharp, he could hear and smell and taste. But he could not see.
Because he could not see, he could not hold his child’s face and admire the nose or the eyes that obviously are a family trait. He could not admire his wife’s beauty or the glory of her in splendid dress. He could not get around like the rest of us. He had to rely on the kindness of others to avoid stumbling.
Perhaps he chose this stretch of the road because the people in that area were especially generous. He could get a lot of money or other goods begging there. Whatever the reason, he hauled himself as best he could to the spot he had occupied so often. He sat. He begged. Another day in paradise.
Yet somehow today promised to be different. He couldn't quite explain it. There was something in the air, something that did not smell or taste or sound the same as all the other days. The humidity was the same, so it wasn’t a change in weather. He was the same blind person he had always been, so it was not a physical change in his situation. Something was different, however, but just what it was remained a mystery.
Then, he heard a sound of a crowd. Was there a parade today about which he had no knowledge? This crowd did not sound like a typical parade. Folks were talking about a great teacher, a person who had told the most amazing stories, of an encounter with a rich man, of an encounter with the Pharisees. This person the crowd discussed was evidently no ordinary man. He was different. He was the difference in the blind beggar’s day.
The blind man inquired, “What’s going on? Who is coming?” One of the people told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is headed this way.”
He thought about it. “Jesus of Nazareth,” he mumbled. “I wonder if that is the same fellow who reportedly healed ten lepers the other day. If so, surely he can lift my blindness! Surely he can set me free.”
His excitement grew. Nervously he formulated a plan. He stood up and cried out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Some of the folks in the crowd shushed him and angrily asked him to be quiet. He got louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The noise got Jesus’ attention. Stopping, Jesus asked the man what he wanted. The request was simple, “Please give me my sight.” Jesus granted the request and told the man, “Your faith has saved you and made you well.”
The crowd (the same ones who rebuked the blind man earlier) now rejoiced at the notable (or should that be “visible”?) miracle that happened here. They gave glory to God for the man’s healing. Isn’t that just like us? When someone cries the loudest for God’s mercy, don’t we sometimes wish that they would just be quiet? It is embarrassing to hear all that crying and begging. Can’t you just do that in private?
Or maybe like the blind man you’ve become so desperate that you simply don’t care anymore. “Jesus, have mercy on me!” is your rallying cry, and you’re going to shout it until you get a response.
There is good news here. Jesus stopped. He listened. He healed and saved. The crowd rejoiced.
Just another day in paradise.
Thanks for reading!