Jesus came as a helpless baby. He arrived in squalor and poverty, but within a family that sacrificially and faithfully chose love and obedience. His companions and associates emerged from the common masses of a Roman-occupied territory that was regarded with contempt. He showed love and compassion to the crippled, the anathema, the beggar, the thief, the immoral and the greedy.
Do you know who he showed contempt for? The prideful, the arrogant, the elitist… those who, in their own self-sufficiency, did not recognize him or their need for him.
He healed a man, blind and mute, possessed by demons. He spoke gently to and forgave the sins of a woman caught in adultery. He brought an extortioner into his closest circle, his own disciples. He associated with those who were immoral and dishonest. Yet the men who held to the strictest moral and religious laws, those he called a “brood of vipers” and hypocrites.
A couple of years ago, my former husband and I were making a last-ditch effort to salvage our marriage. I was already out the door, sleeping in a camping trailer in our driveway, but he “didn’t want me to leave.” We were seeing a counselor.* He asked me to make a list of 20 things Kurt could do to make me feel loved. I thought this list was ridiculous, but I worked on it…
1. don’t ridicule me, belittle me or call me names
2. hug your sons at least once a day
3. find at least one of my weaknesses endearing, not something to criticize
4. don’t ask me to engage in anal sex
5. i feel cared for when you pay attention to what is important to me
6. be more merciful and less judgemental/critical when i/boys don’t meet your standards
7. don’t yell or put others down
8. give gifts of service and take care of our house more
9. i appreciate that you’ve been accepting my less-than-usual cooking and cleaning lately since i’ve been in school
10. accept more responsibility for keeping your family cared for, protected, loved
11. don’t kick the dog
12. talk pleasantly to our children
13. go away
14. don’t disrespect me
15. have the same standard for yourself as others
16. fuck yourself
17. listen… pay attention
18. take care of the yard, vehicle, roof, etc.
19. go away
20. stay away
In my eyes, in my heart, this man who I married in love, had never genuinely expressed the love and acceptance I dreamed of, longed for. Very quickly the relationship became some sort of bad dream in which he treated me with a disrespect that I never witnessed while we were dating. There was a sense of control and ownership. An element of male privilege. An air of superiority and demand. It wasn’t a mutual love and affection, reciprocal need and nurturing, vulnerability and trust. It was manipulative and domineering. Arrogant. PRIDEFUL.
What we see in Jesus, the one who came to us in abject humility, who lived with us in such acceptance, who wooed us with unconditional love, is the unspeakable beauty of grace. Grace in all its amazing perfection. Grace does not deny truth or sin, but embraces it and corrects it with tenderness. Grace can only come from a position of absolute authority, but never condescends or belittles. Grace raises us. It opens our eyes to our best and encourages us to reach further. Grace shines the light on our filth and washes us with mercy. Our response is not scripted or compelled, but a genuine abandon. When we experience such unutterable favor in the arms of God, we have nothing but joy.
My husband’s lack of acceptance, his arrogance, his pride, destroyed us. Please take notes.
Jesus shows us how to lead. How to live. How to love.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
~ Phillippians 2:5-8
* My advice is that a couple with an abusive spouse NEVER EVER go to couple’s therapy or counseling. It is extremely toxic for the victim. Our counselor should have known better.