I recall watching a documentary on the Schutzstaffel, also known as the SS or “Protection Squadron.” It began as Adolf Hitler’s personal protection detail. But, under Heinrich Himmler, it developed into a brutal army, the Waffen SS or “weapon SS,” numbering 800,000 men.
A Mask of Strength
The SS was hardly a conventional military force. Its members considered themselves elite Aryan troops. They were fanatical in their devotion to Hitler and the Nazi party. The SS became Himmler’s primary instrument in executing war crimes and genocide.
In one of Heinrich Himmler’s directives on the selection of prospective SS members, he gave this instruction. “A candidate must never have the attitude of an underling or display humility. He must exude an air of superiority as befits the master race. It must be evident in the way he carries himself, stands, and even in his gait.”
It’s no surprise that Himmler had nothing but contempt for Jesus Christ and viewed Christianity as a “weakening” influence. For humility is the hallmark of Christianity’s founder. “For I am humble and gentle in heart,” said Jesus (Matthew 11:29). Jesus was the express opposite of what Himmler venerated. Himmler saw brutality and arrogance as true signs of strength. He expected it to bring the Nazis a thousand-year reign. Yet arrogance and brutality proved its weakness. The Third Reich lasted only twelve years.
What’s more, Himmler himself proved to be a pathetic weakling. After the Third Reich’s collapse, he dressed in a private’s uniform to save his own skin and avoid detection as a war criminal. Then, once captured, chewed a cyanide capsule to escape his due punishment.
Jesus bravely faced both death and the wrath of God for fallen humanity. He rose from the grave triumphant and His kingdom shall endure forever.
We should never cease to be amazed at the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only member of the human race to whom humility comes naturally. We tiny specks–on this tiny speck of a planet–must learn humility. And learning humility comes hard to us. Before we willingly step down from our imagined godhood, we must fall on our face innumerable times. Failure must hound us continually before we finally come to grips with our own frailty, stupidity, and sinfulness. And, still—despite all our failures–most of us never “get it.”
We would expect it to be the other way around. By our standards, Jesus—the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe, should have the high and mighty attitude. But no, Jesus is gentle and humble. He who dwelt with the Father from all eternity (John 17:5) entered our world in the most inconspicuous and inauspicious way. He made no demands for a comfy existence down here. Born into poverty, obscurity, and slavery to a foreign power, Jesus was hardly set up for success in this life.
Humility has a Purpose
Yet Christ’s humiliation was intentional and purposeful. In order to identify with the dregs of humanity (Hebrews 2:10–11, 14, 18; 4:15; 5:8), Jesus “made Himself nothing” and “took on the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:5–7). He began His life on earth in a stable, lived life without anywhere to lay His head, and ended life in a borrowed grave (Luke 2:7; Matthew 8:20; 27:57–60). Jesus always associated with the lowly and accepted the most menial jobs—especially when His own disciples refused to soil their hands with them (John 13:1–17).
In sharp contrast, haughtiness and arrogance always come naturally to us. We—who are nothing more than pond scum compared to Jesus—are the ones who swagger about. Sometimes I wonder how God can stomach our contemptible pride in the light of His own Son’s humility. Our sentiments should be like those of Isaac Watts when he wrote, “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my riches gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Let us, therefore, humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, that He may lift us up (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).
Dear Father in heaven, thank You for Your unfailing love for me—even when I am at my very worst—utterly sinful and shamelessly proud of it. Please forgive my wicked attitude. Cleanse me in Jesus’ blood. Open my eyes to behold Your holy and humble Son. And change me into His glorious image—no matter how painful that process may be. Amen.