His example established the standard for human behavior and attitudes forever.
What do we do when someone curses us? We follow Christ’s example and bless them. What is our response when someone persecutes us? Again, we follow Christ’s example and pray for that person—as Jesus prayed for His own murderers from the cross (Luke 23:34).
When we are in positions of power and authority, and the lives of people are under our control, how do we treat them? Do we abuse our power for our own selfish purposes? Do we use our power to vent our own anger and resentment? No. We look again to Jesus Christ. Even when He walked the earth Jesus exercised such miraculous powers that it brought people to their knees in fear. With such power, think of the fortunes He could have made, the revenge He could have wreaked, and harm He could have done. Jesus could have stirred mighty storms every time someone irritated Him.
But He did the opposite. He calmed storms. Jesus could have turned the Sea of Galilee into blood as a punishment to those coastal cities that rejected Him. But the only thing Jesus did with water was to turn it into wine. And that was to help a young couple whose supply of wine ran out at their wedding.
Search the gospels and see. While prophets before Him and apostles after Him performed miracles of judgment against people, Jesus’ miracles only benefitted people. He didn’t strike anyone dead but raised the dead. He never inflicted leprosy but removed it. In His own words, His power over mankind was to bless and to give eternal life (John 17:2). By doing so, He established a precedent for everyone in the use of power and authority.
And when we suffer disappointment or do not get the promotion or rank we feel we deserve, what should our response be? Doesn’t the story of Christ’s birth answer that for us? The King of the Universe, the Eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Almighty humbled Himself to be born in a stable, to become a little baby cradled in the arms of His mother Mary. From that point of humility, Jesus continued to humble Himself by submitting to His earthly parents as a child and later by becoming the servant of humanity. “For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus’ humiliation went to the very extreme. He took the blame for all of humanity’s atrocities and sins. Then He submitted to the shameful death of crucifixion.
What grounds for human pride do we have? None whatsoever. As Isaac Watts stated in one of his hymns, “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”
I recall my own personal battle with resentment while serving as a chaplain. In every one of my assignments, I always sought to be the pastor of a military congregation. Sometimes that wasn’t possible. And even when the opportunity presented itself, I was always restricted to Charismatic, Pentecostal, or Gospel congregations because my endorser was the Assemblies of God. Eventually, I began to feel as though no senior chaplain trusted me with a General Protestant congregation.
Finally, I received orders for the USA Garrison at Fort Carson, CO. This would put me in a position to be the pastor of the Main Post Protestant congregation there. However, I was diverted to one more troop assignment—perhaps because my Pentecostal heritage was discovered and I was thought unfit for a Protestant congregation.
Then another USA Garrison assignment presented itself. This time the assignment was in Japan. But before I even departed for the new assignment, the decision was made to install another chaplain, one junior to me, as the pastor of the Main Post Protestant pastor. But, the senior chaplain in Japan told me, “we have a Pentecostal and a Gospel congregation that you might be able to pastor.” But none of those options worked out. In Japan, I served as nothing more than a “water boy” who supported all the “real players” on the team. I was only allowed to empower and enable others to do the job I yearned to do. As a result, I allowed my attitude to sour.
It was at this time that I had a private conversation with a man who had recently become my endorsing agent, Chaplain (COL) Scott McChrystal. Yes, he is the older brother of General Stanley McChrystal. He would have most certainly become a general officer himself had he not become a chaplain, especially an Assemblies of God chaplain.
At the time we spoke he was the senior chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Knowing his own passion for pastoral work, I assumed he must have been the Main Post Protestant pastor. But, he told me, “No, I was the pastor of the Gospel Congregation at West Point—and it was awesome.”
Here I was, a Major, stewing over the fact that I was always relegated to one of the “fringe congregations.” And a seasoned Colonel tells me that he’s getting the very same treatment—and he’s glad to get it.
I realized what a creepy jerk I was. With a rotten, worldly mentality, I was measuring one group of God’s people as superior to another. I was every bit like the self-seeking disciples, who always pursued the “greatest positions.”
The Great Example
From time to time the same old desire for prestige and greatness rises inside. When this happens I only have to remember the example of the chaplain who could have been a general and who was thankful to serve God in whatever position availed itself.
But far greater is the example of Jesus, who “Although he was the very essence of God, did not cling to his equality with God. Instead, He made Himself nothing and took on the role of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). I think of that little baby today, the baby who was God in the flesh. And when I see such incredible humility, I pour contempt on all my pride.
Dear Father in heaven, please keep the image of Jesus always before my eyes. He has forever set the precedent for my attitudes and actions. Thank You, O Lord, for loving me at those times when I can be so selfish and prideful. Thank You also, O God, for loving me enough to purge those things out of my life. Grant that I will also remember Christ’s humility and gladly accept whatever position and role You give me. Amen.
In article photo: untitled by Ben White licensed under Unsplash