I’m working on my sermon on Jesus washing the disciple’s feet in John 13. Structurally, it’s the opening scene that leads to the cross, in John’s gospel.
We don’t like to hear correction, let alone heed it.
But this is the height of folly.
A wise man will listen to the voice of correction, even when he disagrees with it.
A wise woman will listen to the voice of correction, even from her worst enemy.
A wise man will listen to the voice of correction from voices of the past that seem irrelevant and outdated in today’s society.
A wise woman will listen to the voice of correction even from a little child.
We do not always have to agree with the voice of correction in our life. We do not always have to agree with those who rebuke us.
But we DO always need to patiently listen to those voices, for every once in a while (indeed, more often than not) there is a nugget or a boulder of golden truth present.
Think of it this way: Even if the person who rebukes you IS WRONG, you should respect the fact that they love you enough to confront you with what they believe to be the truth. Do not cast aside this act of love.
The most profound, most love, most challenging voice in your life is NOT the person who always agrees with you (your ‘yes’ man), but is the person who is willing to tell you the hard truths about yourself, even when it makes them uncomfortable.
Surround yourself with such people. Be such a person.
To offer correction is an act of love. To receive correction is an act of humility.
The funny thing about my wife is that when she gets dog-piled, she keeps on mouthing…in her own Cassie sort of way. Even when she’s on the bottom of a Fuerst Brother’s Dog-Pile, you can hear her screaming, “THE LITTLE GUY ALWAYS WINS!!!!”
It always makes me laugh because clearly the little guy is losing.
Yet over time I have realized there’s a bit of truth to what she’s saying: the gospels teach us that the little guy does always wins. From the beginning of the New Testament, the message has been that God will overthrow the mighty and uplift the broken, the arrogant cannot stand and the poor in spirit are blessed.
The Little Guy Always Wins slogan was best embodied by Jesus, who taking on the form of a human being, died on a cross under the weight of Roman power, only to resurrect 3 days later and proclaim, “Death has no hold on us! We need not be afraid of the bigger, more powerful guys! The little guys always win!”
It is the Apostle Paul (whose name literally means “the little guy”) who tells us of Jesus’s humility in Philippians 2. I won’t bore you with the Greek grammar, but the point he’s making is that central to God’s character, before the foundations of creation, was the fact that God is humble. The incarnation of Jesus is just the logical and natural manifestation of God’s humility.
“THEREFORE,” says Paul, “HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU!”
It may not look like the little guy is winning when he’s hanging on a Roman cross. But 3 days later, when death could not hold him, the truth became earth shatteringly clear:
THE LITTLE GUY ALWAYS WINS!!!
German theologian Karl Barth, author of the many volumes collectively called Church Dogmatics, told of a dream he had of dying, arriving in heaven, and being questioned by St. Peter:
“Who are you?”
“My name is Karl Barth.”
“What have you done?”
“I taught theology.”
“What have you written?”
“Can I see it?”
“Well, it’s a whole shelf.”
“Big isn’t it?”
“Here is a little red wagon. Put it in. Now, pull it up the street.”
As Barth obediently pulls the little wagon, the angels line the street, and laugh!