Will You Give Up Your Dignity for Jesus?
We may need to look downright silly in order to reach another person for Christ.
There is a desire in all of us to be in control. We don’t like being vulnerable or exposed. We don’t like being made to look foolish or weak. It is an established human instinct. We protect ourselves, everyone does it. Then Jesus comes along and asks us a question, “Will you follow Me?” Doing so will force us to give up things in our lives. We tend to limit this to areas of sin in our lives or our professions. Like Peter, we will be asked to give up his life as a fisherman. Like Paul, we will be asked to give up life as a persecutor of the Church. But Jesus call is not so limited. We will be faced with situations where following Jesus will force us to give up something infinitely more valuable to us: our pride. Are we willing to follow Jesus when our sense of dignity is on the line?
We may need to expose ourselves completely to reach someone for Christ. We should not do so deliberately but the when we approach a person with the Gospel, it often leaves us very vulnerable. Following Jesus can leave us exposed to the mocking and derision of society. Will we go when doing so will make us look ridiculous?
The Foolishness of Philip
Think about the example of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from the Book of Acts. When these two men meet, they are in very different positions. Physically, Philip is walking along the road on foot and the Ethiopian is traveling by in a chariot. There is more of a disparity present though. The Eunuch is a high figure in the government of Ethiopia. It is believed that he is the most powerful man in that ancient Kingdom. He is a prominent member of society. Traveling by chariot indicates not only his position but his wealth. Chariots were only for the upper classes and nobility of the day. The Eunuch is a big deal so it probably more than just a single dusty chariot. It likely would have been a procession of ornate bejeweled chariots and attendants accompanying Mr. Eunuch on his arduous journey. This was the way important people traveled in those days.
In contrast, Philip is just a regular guy. He is first mentioned in the Bible as one of the original deacons of the church. Sounds great now, but the context indicates that this position involved waiting tables and taking care of the old widows of the church. He then goes to Samaria where he takes part in a great work of the Lord among the Samaritans. The Lord then miraculously takes him and transports him to the desert road in Israel to meet the Eunuch. While we don’t know for certain, there is a good chance that Philip has nothing but the clothes on his back when he arrives there. Just a regular guy with regular clothes on foot put there to approach a chariot carrying virtual royalty. One managed an enitire countries treasury the other fed old ladies and cleaned off tables. It would be like God taking you from a church potluck to meet with the Queen of England. It is a daunting task in human terms. Philip is required to place all of his trust in the Lord’s leading.
God then tells Philip to approach the Ethiopian and ask him a question. Straightforward and dignified, right? Philip is probably wearing a suit, a monocle and speaking in an English accent. Yeah, not so much. A chariot would have been moving faster than Philip’s walk. He was also likely wearing a robe that went down to his feet that made running difficult. So Phillip was likely required to hold up his robe, run to the chariot and then possibly even jog alongside it to get his question out:
30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8
An amazingly silly picture of one of the great evangelists of God, isn’t it? Approaching a perfect stranger with lifted robe at a trot puts Philip in an undignified and vulnerable position. Running in that culture was also viewed as demeaning. A grown man did not run unless something was on fire. We might wonder if the Ethiopian saw Philip running at him with a Holy Spirit gleam in his eye and thought, “Who is this crazy man?” Yet, Philip threw off all concerns about his dignity. He did not worry about what was embarrassing for him because he desperately needed to reach a person who was seeking the Lord. Why? Because the Lord told him to do so. He needed to appear foolish in order to get to the Ethiopian, literally and figuratively. There was no other way.
Can we imagine the second thoughts and doubts that could have flown through Philip’s head as he made the dash from the side of the road to the man in need of Jesus? We probably don’t have to imagine as we have all been this situation. We can see someone needs Jesus, we have Jesus, and we want to offer Jesus but our pride, our fear, and our dignity want to keep us from possibly being exposed on His behalf. It is the argument I have in my head when standing on line at the supermarket. “Should I ask the cashier of he knows Jesus, can anyone hear me, am I being silly?”
Who do we choose to serve?
Are We Willing to Go for God?
My wife was faced with this same choice a few years ago. Standing on our front porch, she was approached by the mail person who delivered the days packages to her. There was no fanfare, the mail person, a woman, handed her a stack of envelopes and said: “Have a nice day” and left. It happens every day. But the Lord had a message for my wife this day. “Go and pray with her” God whispered. “What and why?” was the initial response from my bride. She did not see any problem and had never met the mailwoman before that day. She had no idea whether she was Christian. But God told her “Pray with her” and spurred her forward. She went almost running after the woman and reached her as she was sorting mail in her truck. Feeling exposed and foolish standing in the street, she asked this total stranger if she could pray with her? The world would say she was foolish for bothering that poor stranger and she felt extremely vulnerable.
The response was immediately and startling. A flood of sobbing tears accompanied a nod “Yes”. The woman was going through some terribly hard things and though she was all alone in them. She really needed someone to care for her and point her to Jesus. God provided just that in an eager stranger. God’s work was done because my wife took a chance to be foolish in order to do God’s will.
If Philip chose his pride, the fear of what men think, the opportunity to save the Ethiopian would pass him by. As a result of Philip’s choice, one more lost person was saved and heaven rejoiced. If my wife worried that the woman would be offended, the love of God offered through a complete stranger would never be seen.
What were they really doing though? The world calls it being foolish or awkward, but what is it really? Put simply they were just acting like Jesus. Jesus laid down all thoughts of dignity and pride to reach us. He let go of every thought of self-protection on His way to the Cross. He was beaten, stripped, spat up and demeaned by His own creations. Jesus looked pretty foolish and shameful on the Cross. Are we willing to be just as poured out as He was?
Have we ever sought to reach people for Jesus but chose not to out of fear of appearing foolish or being embarrassed? Today’s the day to put that fear aside and follow the example of our Savior as well. The stakes are just too high to let anything get in the way.
Do not let the next opportunity pass by!