Perhaps one of the positive things to come out of the bizarre US presidential election that is nearing conclusion is the possible realization that humiliation was necessary to reset the direction of what calls itself Christianity in the USA. Should it be embraced (that is no sure thing), we may actually see a true revival of genuine faith. Of course, this would be nothing like the “revival” often preached by those elevated ones who call themselves “prophets” and “apostles”. At Back to Eden Group we have called out such ones in the past as APE’s (Apostolic Prophetic Executives) whose lives look nothing like the Jesus they claim to follow.
Humiliation is much more than humbling
A thorough reflection on the history of God’s people as described in the Bible quickly reveals that humiliation was necessary to form character in those often referred to as “great”. We often say they were “humbled” but unfortunately that word has lost its sting in modern times and has come to mean a setback, mild rebuke or correction which resulted in that person repenting and changing their behavior. However, if you meditate for any length of time on the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and most of the Major Prophets you will find much more than a simple humbling. You will find that a thorough and public humiliation was necessary to course correct them from the extreme errors of their ways. Regardless of the eventual final outcome of the US election, we would suggest a similar humiliation is underway of many faith leaders who heartily and publicly endorsed Donald Trump, proclaimed him as a modern day “Cyrus” and predicted with utmost confidence that he was on his way to victory. Hallelujah!!
The example of Peter and Paul
The two most prominent figures in the New Testament are likely Peter and Paul. Both started out as proud, strong and confident leaders. Thorough and public humiliation was necessary to break them of their overconfidence and arrogance. It was only through embracing this tearing down that they became the world changers that we are so familiar with. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
A brief look at Peter
Simon Peter was a fisherman and self-confident man who often believed in the rightness of his ways and abilities. Many books have been written about his tendency to speak rashly based on what he believed to be true. Here are just a few examples of what was essentially his defining character trait in his early years:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21:23
In summary, after Jesus had explained what was about to happen, Peter believed he knew better than someone he had just finished calling “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Perhaps he had a better revelation than Jesus when he attempted to correct him?
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Luke 9:28-35
To paraphrase this incident, the man Peter called Messiah and Master had just transfigured before him in heavenly splendor and Moses and Elijah stepped out of eternity to talk with him. Peter basically says “I have a great idea, let’s build a church on this spot!” God then essentially says…..ah….I don’t think so.
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! John 13:36-38
Again, Peter is questioning God in the flesh and enthusiastically committing to following him to the death. What would free him thoroughly and completely from this over-confidence? A deep and gut-wrenching public humiliation (denying he even knew Jesus three times) was necessary to break not only his over-confidence but also his presumption that he was close to the heart of God and understood his ways. Words alone would not be enough to transform him.
The apostle Paul was another who was fully convinced of his rightness, knowledge of God and leadership ablity. Originally known as Saul, he was a Pharisee who was taught by the greatest theological minds in Jerusalem such as Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was present at the trial of Stephen and presided over his stoning (Acts 8:1). As an expression of his religious zeal and conviction that he was completely right in his understanding of God he led the persecution of the early Church (Acts 8:3). Listen to him describe himself when looking back at this period of his life:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” Acts 22:3-5
It was this overconfident, self-righteous, theologically pure follower of God who set off on the famous road to Damascus to continue his calling of purifying his society of the Jesus followers (then known as The Way). Note that he aligned with the politicians (he would have been authorized by Roman authorities to travel) and other prominent religious leaders of the time (Sanhedrin and High Priest). He was well known and famous all over that part of the world, which was evident by the furious and violent reaction from that society when he eventually went over to the other side and joined The Way himself. Do his attitude and actions seem at all familiar to modern day religious and worship leaders who seek to align with politicians and others like them, proclaim Donald Trump as their “Cyrus” and cleanse society from the sinful evildoers?
What happened to Saul on the road to Damascus was much more than a divine revelation of Jesus as the one he was persecuting. A complete and public humiliation of everything he was and stood for was necessary to change the course of his life. Thrown off his horse in front of his Roman escort and face down in the sand. Completely blind so much so that he had to be led like a donkey on a tether to a place of rest. Healed and restored by one whom he had set out to persecute. His original mission and purpose was forever destroyed.
Hope after humiliation
Both Peter and Paul became world changers because they embraced their humiliation and repented (changed their mind and lifestyle) from everything they said, did and taught. They lost their profession, relationships and community through this process. May those who call themselves followers of Jesus and leaders of the faith do likewise and be part of something new that looks less like overconfidence and arrogance and more like dependence on the one who became of no reputation and refused the kingdoms of this world when offered to him. Whether Donald Trump is reelected or not, the humiliation of false prophets and religious leaders is long overdue. May the lesson of this election and the past four years not be lost on those who claim to follow Jesus.