July 14, 2015

The Freedom to Accept Humiliation

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Have you ever had assumptions made about you that weren't true?

Photo credit: Julija...! / Foter / CC BY

Have you ever had someone make a negative judgment about you based on secondhand information?

Have you ever had your words twisted to change to the meaning of what you said?

Have you ever had someone misinterpret your actions and make an accusation against you that was false?

Have you ever been arrested and condemned to prison for crimes you didn't commit?

How do you handle being misunderstood? I know I've gotten all flustered, indignant, and defensive. After all, you only have one reputation. It must be defended!

After Jesus began His earthly ministry, He traveled around to various cities and villages performing miracles. In Decapolis, He cast a legion of demons out of a tormented man and into a herd of swine. He entered another town and, on His way to raise a 12-year-old girl back from the dead, incidentally healed a woman who touched the hem of His garment. People were astonished!

And then. . . He decided to stop by His hometown. Nazareth. When He began to teach in the synagogue there on the Sabbath, again people were astonished—but in a bad way. "They took offense at Him" (Mark 6:3 NASB). These people had watched Him grow up, they knew His family, and perhaps had even hired Him to do some carpentry work. Who was He to tell them anything? Why did the town carpenter suddenly have such grandiose ideas about Himself?

Ouch. It's one thing to be misunderstood by virtual strangers. It's another to be misunderstood by those who are supposed to know you best.

But Jesus didn't lose His cool. He didn't try to defend Himself or convince them of the reality of who He was. He marveled at their lack of faith, accepted their rejection, and moved on. He lived in a constant state of humility.

Paul E. Miller, in his book, Love Walked Among Us, writes, "We can't fake humility. It's so foreign to us that it takes the very energy of God. Because Jesus depends on his Father, he doesn't need to depend on his position. When we depend on God, we don't either. Faith frees us to be humble."

Faith frees us to loosen that iron grasp on our reputations, and accept that sometimes we will be misunderstood.

Most likely, you're familiar with the story in the Bible where a woman "who had lived a sinful life" approaches Jesus at a dinner He's having at a Pharisee's house to anoint His feet with costly perfume from an alabaster jar.

Courtesy of Harrogate Museums and Arts

In reading this story, many have focused on the woman and the great sacrifice she made, as that perfume was probably her dowry, and likely cost upwards of a year's wages.

But consider the story from a different point of view, as described here by Miller:

"Imagine you are a guy, lying on a couch, and an attractive woman enters the room and begins to cry at your feet. She lets down her long hair (which, in Simon's culture, was done only in the presence of her husband) and drapes it over your feet to wipe her tears. As she does this, she covers your feet with kisses. Finally, she takes the small jar of perfume she carries around her neck and pours it over your feet. Every eye is on you. Your feet are being touched and kissed by a well-known prostitute. Are you feeling uncomfortable? The scene is very intimate and personal—and public! Most men in a similar situation—in any culture—would be embarrassed."

Jesus' focus, however, wasn't on Himself. He didn't try to explain the situation to anyone—to make it look a little less scandalous. His eyes were on that woman, so broken by her own sin and so moved by His love.

He was always more concerned with the souls of people than with His own reputation, honor, and wellbeing.

I can think of several Christian Aid Mission-supported native missionaries who found themselves in similar scandalous-looking situations.

Take, for instance, the ministry leader in Cambodia who works to free and rehabilitate girls trapped in the sex industry. Part of his work involves paying the ransom for prostitutes' freedom. Literally, this means he approaches brothels to pay money to pimps.

To a bystander, he's just another man paying for sex. Does he care what others think? He might. But he cares more about freeing those girls.

A ministry leader we support in Nigeria told us how he began his missionary work among the primitive Koma people. To reach them with the gospel, he moved into their village and adopted their way of living. The village chief was so touched by his extraordinary gesture that he offered the missionary a special gift: an intimate night with his wife.

Imagine if word got out about the chief's scandalous offer—to people all too eager to misinterpret the missionary's behavior. The ministry leader declined the chief's offer, but he willingly put himself in a position that could have jeopardized his reputation.

His love for the Koma people superseded his pride.

A Vietnamese ministry leader recently visited Christian Aid. I've mentioned him in previous posts. He's spent a total of seven years in Vietnamese prisons because of his faith.

During this visit, we asked him more about what happens to people imprisoned for their faith.

First, they suffer a five-month stint in solitary confinement, in a dark room without windows. Every few hours, they're interrogated—abused mentally and physically in an effort to force them to reveal the names of other Christian workers in Vietnam.

Some don't survive this period. The ministry leader knows of three who died. Others come out with partial paralysis or head trauma.

Next, the prisoners go before a court where they are typically accused of being political dissidents and sentenced to a number of years in a labor camp. The minimum sentence for sharing the gospel with unsaved people is 15 years.

The ministry leader knows of 87 Christian workers currently in prison.

Wife of imprisoned pastor in Vietnam

Are they bitter? Angry? That ministry leader certainly isn't. He radiates joy, and continues to jeopardize his welfare to reach unsaved people with the gospel.

What happens if, one day, we in the U.S. are imprisoned for our beliefs? What if we're misunderstood or falsely accused? What if we're humiliated?

"Humility hurts, but such is love. When love is difficult, it's often because it involves humiliation," Miller writes.

What will we do? Cling to our pride, our reputation, our "need" to be understood? Will we change our message? Will we care more about our wellbeing than the souls of people?

Writes Miller: "We need faith to believe that God will take care of us when others don't. That's why we can't love without faith. All Jesus' commands assume that we will trust God."

Do we trust Him? The answer determines everything about how we live and think and see the world around us.

It determines whether or not we're willing to be misunderstood, willing to walk the road of humility.

Faith frees us to be humble.