~ If I Could Only Touch Him ~
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited…Take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place’” (Luke 14:8, 10b, NIV).
Jesus summed up His teaching example with, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.11). Of course there are those schemers who will adopt an appearance of humility or genuinely “try” to be humble in order to get exalted. This is self-deception and won’t work. Jesus calls such people “thieves and robbers” because they don’t enter the sheep pen by the gate (Himself), but “climb in another way” (John 10:1). Those who boast of their “humble” spiritual work will hear Jesus say, “Go away, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22).
All this said, it does sound like a scheme or strategy the way it’s translated, doesn’t it? “Take the lowest place” so that you’ll hear, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Maybe Jesus was foretelling some trouble at the Last Supper when some apostles would be manipulating for places closest to Jesus and arguing (again) who would have a more honorable position in His kingdom.
Discernment is required here, and there is a theology of “discernment of the spirits.” What appears to be the spirit of humility or Christlikeness may well be exaltative arrogance or self-promotion in disguise. Sometimes discernment is easy. “I am a humble person” is a dead give-away to false humility. A humble person always feels too exalted for his own worthiness and will seek the lowest place because he truly feels he belongs there, expecting to remain there, surprised at any invitation to move up. “I’m easy to get along with” should be self-evident and the need to say it probably means you will have a hard time with this person.
However, spiritual disguises of virtues and defects are often so subtle and deceiving that scripture calls “discernment of spirits” a gift from the Spirit. And humility is so essential to spiritual growth that the person who has this gift won’t know it, although others will.
The person who insists that every evil thought or temptation originates from within himself is deputizing himself as a demon. Christ endured all of our temptations, but they certainly did not originate in His sinless Self. On the contrary, the Scriptures are clear that Satanic assaults from outside of Him were the sources. There is a good reason Jesus coupled deliverance from temptation and evil together when He taught His apostles how to pray.
Whatever the source of sin, it does rest within us the power to consent to or stand against the assault. Consenting to the pressure or lure of a spiritually destructive spirit allows our connection to it. Repetitions of such consent will cause our souls to shape in accommodation of that spirit, be it disguised hate, false humility, self-righteousness instead of divine righteousness, human justice instead of divine justice, the deliberate projection of Christlikeness rather than the genuine Christlikeness developed by “forsaking all” for Him out of only love and obedient devotion. Souls shaped by conforming to destructive spirits aren’t Christ-conscious enough to realize what they have become, really thinking they are doing the right things. So Christ tells us “those who persecute you believe they are doing it in God’s name.” He looked down from the cross at His executioners/torturers, praying for the Father’s forgiveness because “they don’t know what they are doing.” Discernment of spirits is vital. Humility is essential.
This does create a paradoxical dilemma. If humility is not in my nature, how can my nature humble itself? Christ’s nature is self-emptiness and humility in His incarnate manhood. His nature is exaltation of the Most High, seated at the right hand of the Almighty Father in His Godhood. Christ is both Son of God and Son of man.
When I contemplate the Son of man, I touch Him in His blood-shedding passion and suffering for us humans. I meet Him in His emptiness and infinitely loving humility. My heart hurts so much I wish for it to die and share His. I know with my spirit (not my mind) that it is His desire also. Our wills become one and I pray His will to always be done, and thus mine is also. That is His desire too.
When I contemplate the Son of God, I touch Him in the Holy of Holies, on the Mount of Zion, on His throne upon the countless and exquisitely beautiful and powerful cherubim. I meet Him in His glory and pure love, exalted above the highest heavens, stretching infinitely beyond any boundaries of creation or even thought. My heart beats so rapidly in His overwhelming and consuming love that it desires to explode into His heart, losing mine in His, forever. That is His desire too.
God’s nature is above all grace. Grace is above my nature. Between our natures grace abounds with a zillion times more power and presence than sin. We are made perfect in such grace. We can know we are touched by this grace when we feel so unworthy and wretched, and so loved that our hearts hurt to touch Him in ardent desire.
The sick, suffering woman was able to move faster than the crowd around Jesus. She pushed her way through, repeating, “If I could only touch Him!” Grace says, “If?” Faith says, “If?” Wisdom says, “If?” The suffering Servant, the devoted Shepherd, the Son of God, the Son of man, says, “If?”
There is no “if.” He is already touching us. He invites us to consent by touching back. His touching us and we touching Him become the same touch. One touch. One heart. Forever. Always starting now, ever new, ever fresh, evermore.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © November 16, 2002
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