"You have heard people say, 'Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.' But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you."
-- Matthew 5:43-44
The Bible is literally a Book of Life: a collection of God's words to live by. And it's through its pages that we're reminded that our Creator loves us and will do whatever it takes to have an everlasting relationship with his people. But another repeated lesson is that God's ways aren't our ways. And his thoughts aren't our own.
How true that is! Our society teaches us to beat the competition, climb the corporate ladder and keep up with our neighbors (and then pass them by). We need the biggest, the best and the shiniest. And most of all, it's not bragging if you can back it up.
There's also no place for humility. Since we have an image to keep and folks to impress, we need to dress the part and live in the right neighborhood. What's more, we must drive the right car and have the right job. It's all about us. And we deserve only the best.
God, however, has a much different message for Christ-followers: To be first, we must be last. But this uncomfortable viewpoint turns things inside out. And that's just the point.
How much better would life be if every Christ-follower were to adopt a servant's attitude and put the interests of others before their own? Jesus answered this question by example. First, he willingly surrendered the royal privileges of being God's only Son. He entered the world in the most humble of circumstances--a birth among farm animals in a less-than-tidy stable. And when he grew older, he made a blue-collar living as a carpenter. Jesus could have lived in splendor as the King of Kings. But instead, He chose a nomadic existence to teach his people about God's Good News of salvation. He put us before himself.
Jesus' ultimate act of humility was to suffer the death of a common criminal. Of course, this penalty was unwarranted. He broke no laws and lived a perfect, fault-free life. But it was for our sake that he was executed on a cross to pay for the shameful ways we've lived our lives and treated others.
How can we adopt this service-driven perspective?
It starts by recognizing the wonderful things that God has done for us and continues to do every day. Without him, we are nothing. But through him, all things are possible. When we make God's ways and thoughts our own, we'll finally understand that it's through humility--not force--that our world will change for the better.