Beyond Humiliation - The Way of the Cross
Every act of obedience calls for our sin to be exposed so we may be forgiven and experience resurrection life. It is this dynamic of humility personified at the cross that is a defining characteristic of Christianity. In his book Humilitas , historian John Dickson shows that as a virtue, humility was alien to the culture in which Jesus came. In the first century, the Roman ideal was the very opposite.
Honour was universally regarded as the ultimate asset for human beings, and shame the ultimate deficit.
It was in this context that Jesus washed dirty feet, touched the unclean leper and elevated the despised. His teachings and actions culminating in his death — constantly flouted the status quo and posed a direct challenge to societal behaviours. Jesus redefined greatness by demonstrating servanthood and humility Matthew In fact Dickson shows that humility as a virtue only came to be valued in Western culture as a result of the rise of Christianity.
Prior to this, humility before an equal or a lesser person was deemed to be morally suspect and self-congratulatory boasting was the norm. In Christian understanding, every one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made Psalm , reflects the image of God Genesis and is crowned with glory and honour Psalm Humanity has boundless potential that extends beyond what we have even yet seen. Yet true freedom requires us to humble ourselves and accept our brokenness as the first step towards release of that potential.
There is no escaping it. Pride, love of honour, greed and selfishness must all be nailed to a shameful cross. It is this truth I wish Mohammad had understood. On an ugly shameful cross, grace and freedom are found.
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And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. Among other things, the person was stripped naked before being hung on a cross so that his genitals would be publicly exposed.
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As well, at the moment of death his bowels would loosen. Crucifixion clearly had humiliation in mind. We have tended to downplay this aspect, both in our preaching and in our art. We have, as Jurgens Moltmann put it, surrounded the cross with roses, with aesthetic and antiseptic wrapping towels.
Mantle, Gregory - Beyond Humiliation: The way of the Cross - Bible Support
But that was not the case for Jesus. His nakedness was exposed, his body publicly humiliated. That, among other reasons, is why the crucifixion was such a devastating blow to his disciples and why many of them abandoned Jesus and scattered after the crucifixion.
They expose publicly what is most vulnerable inside of our humanity. They shame the body. What is the connection between this type of pain and the glory of Easter Sunday? Because, paradoxically, a certain depth of soul can only be attained through a certain depth of humiliation. How and why is this so? Ask yourself this question with courage and honesty: What experiences in my life have made me deep? In virtually every case, I will venture to say, experiences that have deepened you will be incidences that you feel some shame in acknowledging, a powerlessness from which you were unable to protect yourself, an abuse from which you could not defend yourself, an inadequacy of body or mind that has left you vulnerable, a humiliating incident that once happened to you, or some mistake you made which publicly exposed your lack of strength in some area.
Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross
All of us, like Jesus, have also been, in one way or another, hung up publicly and humiliated. And we have depth of soul to just that extent. But depth of soul comes in very different modes. Humiliation makes us deep, but we can be deep in character, understanding, graciousness, and forgiveness or we can be deep in anger, bitterness, revenge-seeking, and murder. Many of our worst mass-murderers have also experienced deep humiliation and it too has stretched their hearts, except in their case it has made them deep in bitterness, callousness, and murder. Several summers ago, I was at a conference at the University of Notre Dame where the Holy Cross community had gathered to prepare itself for the Beatification of its founder.
Reflecting upon the spirituality of their founder, one Holy Cross member offered this challenge to his community: If you live inside of any family for any length of the time, at some point that family will wound you and wound you deeply.