Sunday, December 02, 2007

Presidents and Paupers - Humility

This morning at church the pastor preached from Philippians 2, one of the greatest chapters on humility in the Bible. The apostle Paul reveals that the struggle to be humble and inclusive toward your brothers in Christ is to remember that Jesus, though in the very nature of God, emptied himself of the position that was rightfully his so that he could rescue us and draw us into fellowship with himself. Once we realize the indicative—that we have been captured by the experience of his humility—we can actualize the imperatives to go and do likewise, having the “same attitude of Christ Jesus” and “considering others better than ourselves.”

Tonight I was leafing through my journal, which I don’t keep up with very well. Inside the leather-bound volume, I have firsthand accounts of events spanning half a decade. The most recent entry came a few weeks ago, and the first was written before I even began dating Katy, who became my wife June 16 after more than five years of dating.

I can remember writing the entry by lamplight after an amazing day doing mission work in Washington. How we got there is a long an interesting story that will soon be published in Breakaway magazine, so I won’t reveal it now. But I remember that night, sitting at a desk in an apartment on the top floor of a barn in Damascus, Md., trying to process all that had gone on that day as we had toured the monuments downtown and scouted the area where we would do homeless ministry in the next few days. My whirling mind stopped on the intersection of two different human encounters and how God used them to show me that he was working on humility in my heart. So I began to write:

Feb. 22, 2002

Today was our fun day in the great city of Washington D.C…I had a few highlights during the day. First and foremost is that I saw the president taking his afternoon jog. They had shut down all direct views to the White House because the president was outside. We had to wait about 20 minutes in brisk cold for the North Vista to be reopened, but it was well worth it.

But, surprisingly enough, that was not the [biggest] highlight of my day. The pinnacle of the day’s activities was found in the filthy face and dirtier speech of a homeless man we came to know as Frank Nitty. He was a friendly and intelligent man, adorned in conventional homeless garb, engaging in the normal activity of begging for change. His sickly, sallow eyes told the story of a harsh life with little hope remaining.

It’s interesting how Christianity changes your views. Who, in the right (worldly) mind would value an encounter with a “nobody” more than a peek at the president? When Christ’s humility grabs a hold of you, whether pauper or executive, you consider all better than yourself. Only when you do this can you begin to implement his mercy, grace and love in life’s situations. I came across the two extremes of our country: the chief executive and the common pauper. The most important and the least important crossed my path, and I didn’t mind investing my time and wonder in the lesser.

I went on to talk about Mr. Nitty’s views on God and the church. He saw the world as a house of cards that would soon be blown to pieces. God was an supernatural agent worthy of respect because of his power, but not deserving of our love and worship. We parted ways cordially but without agreement. I think I ended up giving him a dollar. The lesson in humility he gave me was worth much more:

God has shown me that before my acceptance of his gift, I was just like everyone else. He has forced me to remember that the world is lost like I once was, but it doesn’t have to be.
Photo: The White House, Copyright Trevor Williams 2o07. This picture was taken this year during my bachelor party baseball trip.

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