When faced with our mortality the cry of the human heart says: “Remember me!” Our fear of being forgotten runs deep and often inspires the choices we make–good and bad. The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage his friends in Philippi, challenging them to raise their sights higher as they rejected the worldly influences that surrounded them:“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life . . . .”
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be remembered, but rather than allowing fear to motivate us, Christ would have us live out the entirety of our lives in the creative freedom of our faith. That, dear friend, is our means of shining “like stars in the universe . . . .”
In my last post I recommended a booklet written by Dr. Timothy Keller titled, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: THE PATH TO TRUE CHRISTIAN JOY*. As Dr. Keller challenges our acceptance of the self-esteem philosophy and its influences, he writes about the concept of self-forgetfulness being lived out as gospel-humility:“Not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
Dr. Keller gives several examples of how gospel-humility can be lived out and then provides a little test as he observes,
The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism. It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them. Why? Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people’s opinions.
I have to admit that I often do not receive criticism well–how about you? Do you become defensive, fall apart or beat yourself up, perhaps because you so desire to please others? Or . . . do you respond to criticism by hardening your heart saying (or thinking), “Who cares what so-and-so thinks?!!” Keller says neither the low self-esteem response nor the prideful response are appropriate for Christians.
So how might we respond? Dr. Keller points to a third option for self-forgetful/gospel-humble servants of Christ:
When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up gets criticism, it does not devastate them. They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change. (pg.34)
As I thought about gospel-humility working out changes in my heart, I remembered an incident I witnessed a long time ago. I was a senior in college, sitting in a full classroom with about sixty students. It was the early seventies, so there was tension on many college campuses between students and faculty–this would be my first taste of it. The professor was a man I deeply respected, Dr. John Veig. He was a tall, almost elderly man, who was also my Senior Project Advisor. As he was speaking to the class, a long-haired hippie-type guy stood up in the middle of the classroom and made a rude remark aimed at Dr. Vieg. A momentary hush enveloped the classroom as everyone watched to see what was going to happen next. Dr. Vieg, looking fully into the young man’s eyes, started to smile as he slapped his knee hard and gave out a huge belly laugh! Amazed by the scene, the tension in the room was completely dissipated as the entire class joined in the laughter and the young man quietly sat down looking a little sheepish.
I did not know it then, but what I witnessed so long ago was a picture of gospel-humility. Dr. Veig did not become defensive. Instead, he momentarily reflected on what was said and then chose to reach out to the young man with the love of Jesus and a smile. Dr. Vieg did the exact opposite of what any of us expected. (To be honest, I wanted to punch the guy!)
So how might gospel-humility–couched in the love of Jesus–shine through us to reach an ever-darkening world? Just as importantly, how would Christ have us live out our lives in the creative freedom of our faith?
- Prayer will obviously be key as we ask God’s Spirit to help us view the person or situation with His eyes rather than our own.
- A growing familiarity with the Scriptures will help you become a biblical thinker (no longer swayed by the philosophies of the world.)
- Refuse to become defensive: Instead prayerfully give thanks to God for the offender (that He is not finished with them any more than He is done with you.)
- Consider what was said and then respond as the Lord would have you do in wisdom and in faith–I have found that following Dr. Vieg’s example of doing the opposite of what is expected (or what I am tempted to do) can really be effective.
To be remembered as one who shone “like a star in the universe” is not such a lofty goal for those who live and love in gospel-humility. No matter what you may be facing, refuse to be discouraged as you trust in Him each gift-of-a-day.
All to His Glory!
*Timothy Keller, The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness–The Path to Christian Joy, printed in the UK by a division of 10ofthose.com, 2013.