The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)
God made us in order that we might know him in true humility of heart. So far as we have lifted ourselves up with pride to any degree – even if it is over the least of all people – we will be unpleasing to God. His joy, his power, his direction, his approval will be as far from us as our pride is above others – even the least of others.
“Fearing the Lord” is an expression of humility. To fear God is not to see him as mean-spirited and vengeful, for the psalmist in the verse above weds the fear of the Lord to hoping in his unfailing love. To fear the Lord means to hold him in the utmost respect and reverence, that he is the One whom we seek to please in all of life, because we believe there is a spiritual benefit in doing so.
All good spiritual traits are first found in the nature of God and God is the perfect example of humility of heart. God is completely obedient to his own nature of love and holiness. Christ humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross, and in doing so he revealed his divinity (Phil. 2:6-8). Just as he was fully God in his nature in heaven, so he was also the perfect expression of God’s humility in his lowering himself to be born among men and to even die for the sins of the world.
While we are not to admire the sinfulness of humanity, neither should we look with disdain upon anyone, rather we should see all people through the love of God in Christ for them. Paul described himself as “the chief of sinners,” revealing his humility of heart. There will be people whom we learn not to trust, with whom we learn not to share secrets, or to trust with confidential information. But we still must see them in love and compassion.
The command of Christ for us to pray for our enemies, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45), means more than to merely say a mindless prayer on their behalf. Rather it is a call for us to take them before the throne of grace earnestly and sincerely as the Spirit leads us to do so. God may place them on our hearts for a protracted period to teach us humility. Daily as we pray for them – without condoning their wrong-doing or their disdain for us – we are doing more than just our Christian duty; we are also learning what it means to fear God and to trust in his unfailing love.
And if we judge them when we pray for them, the Spirit may simply release them from our hearts – once we have done our Christian duty to pray – because we are being tempted with pride and a judgmental spirit. God told Samuel to stop grieving about the failure of King Saul, to go instead to the house of Jesse where he would reveal to him who the next king would be (1 Sam. 16:1). And there are times in our lives that God will also lead us to release people into his hands and to move on to the positive things that Christ is doing in the world.
To have disdain for a person will be felt and expressed differently depending on how we see them in relation to ourselves. If we have disdain toward someone we consider above us in status we will feel resentment toward them. Someone who is on our own level we will feel anger toward. Someone we consider below us we will feel contempt for. But if we may see everyone like us and ourselves like everyone else, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), then we will have sympathy toward others.
The ground at the foot of the cross is level, meaning that all of us simply come in our own need and bow before Christ. The notorious sinner and the decent citizen both must come to God through Christ. Satan is constantly seeking to tempt us with pride, for pride will destroy us more surely and completely than anything else.
Submit your heart to the eternal love of God in Christ, put your hope in his unfailing love, and let his love lead you where he wants you to go.