I know so little about love. This thought occurred to me just a few weeks ago and I began to look at love to see what it is and how I can learn to love more and love better. It is no great mystery that the Bible places great emphasis on love. The word “love” appears hundreds of times through the Scripture as God tells us not only how much He loves His children but also how we are to display God’s love to others.
It did not take me long to learn about the unbreakable link between love and humility. Love is impossible without humility. If I want to excel at love, I first need to learn to be humble; to learn to count my own joy and pleasure as less important than the joy and pleasure of someone else. Perhaps the key to love is learning to derive pleasure from someone else’s pleasure. Selfless love is to find pleasure in another person’s pleasure.
I think of my daughter and how much she loves it when I blow on her tummy. I derive no pleasure from the act of blowing “raspberries” on her stomach, but I derive nearly endless amounts of pleasure from hearing her squeal “stop!” and then “again!” I receive pleasure from her pleasure. While I could be reading a good book or surfing the Internet, thus deriving pleasure directly from my actions, I choose instead to find pleasure through my daughter’s pleasure. I put myself first by putting her first, finding pleasure in her pleasure.
I wish I could say that this was the rule rather than the exception, but far more often I seek to find pleasure selfishly.
I found in the Bible that there are two types of humility, and though they are related, they are distinct. God tells us to first to be humble before Him and then to be humble before our fellow man.
Humility before God is a humility before His Word. I need to approach the Bible with humility each time I open its pages. I need to acknowledge that the Word is the teacher and I am the student. I need to allow the Bible to tell me who I am and describe my condition as a human being. I need to accept the Bible’s solution to my condition. Psalm 25:9 says “The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.” If I approach God’s Word to humble myself before it, God will guide and teach me. If I approach His Word with pride and with a haughty spirit, God will oppose me, for “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
When I read God’s Word with an attitude of humility I can learn from the tragic times faced by characters such as Samson or David. I know that I am as human as they were and as prone to sin as they were. I see myself in the words of Genesis 6:5 which says “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” When I read Jeremiah 17:9 I know that it describes my condition; I know that it is my heart that “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” If I approach these same passages with an attitude of arrogance, feeling pride in my own abilities, I will learn nothing.
I believe this attitude of humility is what separates those believers who really “get it” from the masses of professed believers who never do – those people who continually show an attitude of arrogance before God do not allow Him to change and mold them. They make gods of themselves, believing that they are capable of doing God’s work in their own lives. They deny the truth and gravity of their situations. I can think of so many people I have known who never humbled themselves before the Word. When they read about sin, they saw other people. When they read the passages of Scripture that demand changes to their lives or that went against what they believed, they refused to humble themselves. I have been in that position and have refused to change and I am sure you have been too.
God forgive us for our arrogance and give us humble hearts.
When we have humbled ourselves before God, we are able to show His love to others by humbling ourselves before them – by esteeming them better than ourselves. Without first humbling ourselves before Him, we merely show our own love which is fatally flawed and full of sin. I think of Mother Teresa, a woman who outwardly showed love to so many, yet just a brief look at her life will show beyond any dispute that she never humbled herself before God. Think of the good her life could have accomplished had she been able to show God’s perfect love to the world rather than only her own selfish love.
Imagine how my life would change and how your life would change if we were truly able to derive pleasure from the pleasure of others. Imagine if we dedicated the time we spend deriving pleasure from television to gaining pleasure from the joy of helping others and esteeming them better than ourselves. Imagine how Christians could impact the world around them if we really understood the value of humility.
Many months ago I studied the book of Proverbs and learned the absolute importance of wisdom. Since then I continually pray that God will help me grow in wisdom. I have recently begun to pray that He will also grant me humility before His Word, so that He can change me and so that I can then show His love to the world around me.