We’ve just begun Lent, which is a season in the church year where Christians, to a degree, take up the role of Simon of Cyrene, the man who walked with Jesus and helped him carry his cross to Calvary (Matt 27:32; Luke 23:26; Mark 15:21).
There is some debate in church history as to what role Simon of Cyrene played in the early church. Some have credited him with being the first African Christian, as his hometown of Cyrene in Libya, would have meant he was from northern Africa. Some have suggested he was one of the five leading ministers working in Syrian Antioch, the great mission city from which Paul and Barnabas were sent off by the Holy Spirit to begin missionary journeys (Acts 13:1). Regardless, Simon is a man who seems to display fairly unheralded service, which is ironic, in that he’s carrying the cross for the One who is the ultimate in unheralded service.
Consequently, Simon plays a large roll in the Lenten season. He is a picture of humble service for Christ, eventually realizing that he is, more importantly, served by Christ. His humble service mirroring Jesus’ humble service remains an essential component in the Christian faith.
True humility comes from looking at Jesus with his cross and understanding that if God’s Son had to die for me, even if no one else sinned, then I have no right to view myself as superior to anyone on the planet. Until that point, I will only pity those I perceive to be lower than me. However, when I view others as equals, then I can love them.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)
I’ve never known this more personally than when I tried to take my (now) wife through adult instruction classes before we were married. Adrian was a Christian from multiple church backgrounds. However, I wanted to teach her something about Lutheran theology. I thought I had all the points clearly mapped out. I thought I had compelling arguments and vivid illustrations. I thought there was no possible way she wouldn’t see things from my perspective. I was naive and missing a very important factor in Christian instruction.
Reading between the lines, you may have sensed already that the problem was that I was arrogant. While I knew Adrian was very intelligent, I was the seminary student. And quite honestly, I may have accurately presented my points, but she perceived it as me trying to conquer her with God’s Word, not love her with God’s Word and lead her to a deeper understanding of truth. My instruction was very unChristlike in that way.
You can call Jesus bold, courageous, and confident, but “arrogant” is one charge you simply cannot bring against a perfect man (God, in fact), who willingly gives up his life for those who are lesser than him, those who even murder him.
Adrian did not become a WELS member when I took her through instruction classes as a seminary student. She did, however, eventually become a WELS member. Of her own volition (and some slight prompting from me), she sought out a WELS church in which to take instruction classes, because she was still curious. By the grace of God, she found a very faithful pastor whom she labeled as intelligent, funny, and kind, but most importantly….humble. To him I am forever grateful. While this pastor was unquestionably a talented guy who had more experience than me and I have no doubt did a better job of leading Adrian through classes than I did, the essential component to his instruction was his humility.
Having learned a lot from this pastor, to this day I’ve held to the belief that I don’t reserve the right to teach someone about Jesus unless I’m committed to humbly loving them like Jesus.
Some of you are really passionate about sharing Jesus. Let’s face it, people who read Christian blogs are typically fairly zealous in their faith. Please learn from my mistakes. I know Jesus and his cross have forgiven my arrogance just as he’s forgiven your sins. But now, as you invite someone to know Jesus this Easter, invite someone to experience the humble love and service of Jesus through you as well.
If grace really is grace, then we’re all equals who can treat each other as such.