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February 2, 2010 / beidson

Be Wretched: Doing the Hard and Holy Work of Humiliation

Perhaps we should practice wretchedness as a spiritual discipline–put it in all of the books on how to be like Jesus.  James seems to think that this is very important.  He gives an imperative, “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (4:9).  God opposes us when we bow our chest.  The answer: bend our backs in prayer.  This requires wretchedness.

Paul too understood this.  He exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).  Jesus, of course, the one who lifts the face in the dirt, who strengthens knees on the floor, who shoulders the burden of the heavy-hearted.  Paul was here responding in shock, almost, at his warring flesh which presented him with an ever-present struggle with sin.  But still, he understood he was wretched, the chief of sinners.  He humbled himself–he was humiliated.

We don’t typically think of humiliation as a good thing, especially not something we would do to ourselves. But this is exactly what we need to do–strip away pride and self-concern and make ourselves nothing before God and men.  It is no easy task to abase ourselves–we are not built that way in our flesh.  But it is holy work we must set ourselves to do.  We cannot reign with Christ unless we become nothing with him, the Man who was wretched on a cross, a cursed Man who embraced the hard work of humiliation.

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