We were thanking Jesus yesterday that He humbled Himself, firstly by leaving His glory in heaven in order to come to earth as a man, and then by dying a hideous criminal death on the cross for us. We finished yesterday with a quote from Micah 6:8 about walking humbly with God ourselves, by thanking Jesus that He humbled Himself for us.
That verse in full is as follows, ‘He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’. It is interesting that justice, mercy and humility are linked together here as high value attributes, when it comes to walking with God. As we approach Good Friday we have no better visual aid before us than the cross to keep us in that place of; acting justly towards others, being merciful and staying humble. Why? Because the cross is the greatest leveler of all time.
Talk to nearly anyone, not in the church, and they will have a graded view of sin, they will tell you that the likes of Hitler needs to go to Hell, but that they are a good person and that they have never really done anything bad, just a few things that everyone does and that really don’t count.
We in the church or ‘in Christ’ can also have a hierarchy of sin in our minds. A hierarchy that enables us to look down on others. The truth is that before the cross we all start at ground zero. None of us are good enough for heaven. Only the perfect can go in and without Jesus ‘there is none righteous not one’ Romans 3:10. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ Isaiah 53:6. And I think that that ‘all’ means ‘all’.
Judgement, criticism and gossip have no place in the Kingdom, but if we are honest they do sometimes make us feel better about ourselves. We somehow raise ourselves in the hierarchy of how much we are deserving of God’s love and favour by overlooking our sin as fairly insignificant, while seeing other peoples sin as ‘major’, but I don’t think Jesus sees it that way. Mercy has such a high value in Jesus teaching in the gospels, and He has particularly strong words for those who, having received mercy were unable to extend it to others. Matthew 18: 23-35.
Part of walking humbly with God is making sure that we walk in love and compassion with our brothers and sisters because ‘judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!’ James 2:13. That doesn’t mean that we can never observe something that is clearly not right in a brother or sister and pretend it isn’t there, or that we haven’t noticed. No! but how we react to what we see is about observing them from a humble standpoint.
We need to love and pray for each other, and yes speak if we need to, after first allowing the Holy Spirit to remove the ‘plank’ from our own eye, Matthew 7 1-5. Staying in a place of gratitude for all that Jesus did for us, and seeing ourselves in the shadow of the cross, will keep us in a place of humility and wanting the best for every brother and sister. Seeing ourselves at ground zero – like them before the cross – we will approach them, if necessary, from a place of humility, care and love, knowing the grace of God that has been extended to us.
Sometimes when an evangelist is trying to convince someone that they are loved by God, they will say something like ‘Jesus would have died for you even if you had been the only person on earth, He loves you that much’. Those of us who are tempted to feel that really our sin wasn’t the main thing that took Jesus to the cross, need sometimes to say that to ourselves in reverse. In order to stay in a humble place try saying, ‘Thank you Jesus that even if I had been the only person in the whole world, you would still have needed to go to the cross for me to absolve me of my sin’
It was not that Jesus just died for all the major league sinners and their sins and my few sins just got swept into the basket too, in a sort of ‘buy this carpet cleaner and get this hand attachment free’ sort of situation. No. My sin cost Jesus big time, it wasn’t an add on. Coming to the cross with thankfulness keeps us humble, it keeps us receiving mercy for ourselves and extending grace and mercy to each other too.
So everyday let us say, or even sing it, ‘Thank you for the cross, Lord. Thank you for the price you paid. Bearing all my sin and shame, in love you came and gave amazing grace. Thank you for this love, Lord, Thank you for the nail pierced hands. Washed me in your cleansing flow, now all I know: your forgiveness and embrace. Darlene Zschech Hillsong 2000