I was at a friend’s parents’ high rise condo the other day and the view was breathtaking. Looking down over the city of Atlanta with views of Stone Mountain and downtown and everything in between also brought to mind the way my childhood shaped my view of the world. Despite my parents’ best efforts to provide broad exposure to all kinds of people and places, the culture around me taught me something different.
Standing above others was much better than standing below. The most exclusive group or place is more desirable than the broadly accessible one. Having the most advanced technological gadgets is more dignified than the cheaper and more utilitarian kind. Kitchens should have the most updated appliances and fixtures and seem most like that of a professional chef’s, regardless of what kind of food is actually prepared there. My home should be the most inviting and most acceptable to the most critical of acquaintances. I want the most advanced degree possible, and the most of them I can attain from the most prestigious schools who will include me in their programs. Being closely identified with or being the most important person in an organization is the ideal. If I can at least claim a close relationship to those others deem most important, I gain some “most importance” myself. To stand above the masses in a position not accessible to the majority becomes a most consuming identity. Forget God as “Most High”, I am after that identity!
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Phil 2:5-7
My attitude should be that of Christ Jesus – making myself nothing and taking on the very nature of a servant. Hmmm…
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” Luke 9:48
So, then, I just need to like children and have them over to play more without yelling at them for being so reckless and rowdy and then clean up after everybody, like a happy servant. Then, throw in the occasional self-deprecating remark at a cocktail party and I think I will be satisfying this theme of “being the least”, right?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Matt. 6:19-24 The reason moralism and new laws do not work is because the white washed tomb does not deal with the dead body inside. As long as my eyes are still looking down on the city and on most of the other people I encounter, they are not the eyes of Jesus who cherished all those “others” as dearly loved children and ultimately, as His Beloved Bride. My high rise view is just not compatible with the way Jesus sees me and the rest of His world. He does not look down on me or the rest of mankind, as He alone is rightfully entitled to do, but washes my feet…and gives me new eyes to begin seeing as He does. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:16-17 Sharing in the sufferings and becoming a servant seems to look a whole lot more like becoming “the least” than preserving my status as the most. There is a real loss in that, and that loss is a form of suffering. Yet, He is giving me new eyes that actually are seeing differently. The former allure of “the most” is losing its sparkle and the grip on my heart is weakening, mercifully. He did not merely come down surrounded by body guards and entitlements, but entered into the messiness, struggle, heartache and humility of humanity. He is inviting me to love others similarly – not from a safe distance nor a position of superiority, but as one who shares genuinely in the suffering and celebrations of those I would otherwise deem the least important in the room. That this work would be completed in me, that new eyes with which to view the world and people around me (hmm, and even my own reputation) would firmly replace my self-important ones, is surely what I am wanting most.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1-2