Based in New York, Spiritualundertones is a blog by Sarah Almengor. Her posts reflect spirituality, relationships, and everyday life through her personal musings, photography and acquired wisdom.

How Sweet The Sound

The other day while driving past a cemetery, I began to question both my existence and my inevitable death. "What will I be known and remembered for? What mark am I leaving behind when I die? What would be written in the eulogy shared at my funeral?"

I can't speak for others, but I know for me personally, I am not satisfied with merely being just another attractive face, or a nice person, or a fun time; I want to be known as someone who left an imprint on the lives of everyone around me. What does that require? What does that look like — a life lived for the benefit of others? Often in my musings I emphasize the importance of humility and what (I believe) it means to live humbly, but who or what can serve as our perfect example of a meek human being? Surely Hollywood has served us a plethora of "role models" on a silver platter, but I have yet to find my inspiration when it comes to moral uprightness.

Jesus is a man who lived and walked this Earth for thirty-three years. Whether you believe him to be the son of God or not is entirely up to you, and the purpose of this particular piece is not to preach at you, convert you, or condemn you. There is historical evidence that prove Jesus's existence — and as a matter of fact, countless scientists have come to the belief that Jesus did in fact exist, live, and die via crucifixion. Some people believe him to be the Messiah, others believe him to be a great teacher, and many others revere Jesus as a historical figure and nothing more. Excluding the intricate details of each person's view on Jesus: he lived, and he died. I can even say he lives, depending on my own personal beliefs. However, I will not be opening the resurrection can of worms. 

We learn about Jesus and his ministry and who he was, or is, in the Bible, which is known to be the Holy Scriptures inspired by God. Obviously God didn't grab the world's biggest quill pen and start jotting down everything in the Bible with his massive (perhaps glowing?) hand. The gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) depict Jesus to be meek and mild in his demeanor, from the washing of his disciple's feet to living out his claim of "not coming to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Many accounts in the Bible recall the religious people (also known as Pharisees) of that time continually hurling insults at Jesus merely because they hated him. Why did they hate Jesus? What was there to hate about a man who lived a perfect life, with a tremendous amount of humility as the cherry on top? While, yes, Jesus was undeniably gracious and all-loving…he didn't exactly beat around the bush either. He called people's bluff — especially the religious ones! Jesus called them show-offs, snakes, and white-washed tombs ("…on the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth" - Matt. 23:27). He exposed the hearts of people (mostly the Pharisees, since they pretended to be righteous); he threatened their security, prestige, and income. The Pharisees had worked so hard for everything they had, everything they were, and Jesus was a direct threat to that. The proud and religious hated Jesus, but those who recognized their feebleness in the sight of a perfect being appreciated his love for them that much more. To quote C.S. Lewis, "As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you."

What about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8)? When she was brought to Jesus by some Pharisees and they explained to him what had been going on, eventually Jesus tells her that she's been forgiven and to "go and sin no more". The Pharisees must have not only been shocked, but annoyed. They were ready to stone the woman. They were egging Jesus on by saying things like, "yeah but Jesus doesn't the law say that she should be stoned? This woman is guilty! Can we stone her now? Come on, we caught her!" The crazy thing is (and pay attention to the humility factor here)…Jesus basically gave them permission to stone her. He never denies that she's guilty of adultery. In modern language: "Yep, the law does say she should get stoned. Go ahead then. However, I need whoever is gonna take the first hit to be a person without sin. If you've never been guilty of sin go ahead and cast the first stone", is essentially what Jesus told the Pharisees. Read the account for yourself in John chapter 8, it's an incredible story of grace! Humility. They all had their stones in tow, ready to throw them at the adulterous woman…and the even crazier part is that Jesus, being the only one to ever live that was sinless, didn't have a stone. You got that, right? Like, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone" would qualify Jesus to go ahead and do just that: throw the first stone. But he didn't even have one. 

Arrogance, or pride, would've looked like this: Jesus lacking compassion for the woman, him taking his stone and hitting her, all while declaring (either verbally or from a heart posture),  "I'M the only perfect one here! I'M sinless! Get what you deserve, yeah, take THAT!" But that's not what he does. I want to emphasize the fact that Jesus was sinless and yet didn't even have a stone to cast. Instead of asking a Pharisee for a stone, instead of picking one off the ground, he kneels down to the woman. He associates himself with her failure. He's not ashamed to essentially become her weakness, her shortcoming. That's humility. Do you realize that Jesus had all authority to have easily been disgusted by the woman and therefore could have just left her there? He could have easily said something along the lines of, "Pfft! What a pathetic whore you are. Out of my sight! You deserve to be stoned to death". Guess who had that heart attitude? The religious. Not Jesus.

There are countless other examples of Jesus being the most humble humanitarian to walk this Earth — the most obvious one being that he was crucified for OUR wrongdoings (past, present, and future!) — but the story of the adulterous woman is possibly my most favorite. It so clearly portrays the self-effacing character of Christ. It serves as the perfect template of the humility in heart I aim to possess. It challenges me to reflect on my own life, my own actions, and recognize where I've been wrong and am still wrong, but not feel condemned about it. I can rest in the forgiveness freely offered to me, and that I've received and accepted. Remember Jesus reassures the woman that while she's forgiven, to stop sinning. He doesn't tell her, "Alright you're forgiven, so now take advantage of my grace and willfully keep doing the same thing I've forgiven you for". There's a perfect balance of grace and truth. Grace says: you're forgiven. Truth says: stop sinning. Jesus could've also just said "sin no more"—but that wouldn't have reassured the adulterous woman that she was forgiven. I personally believe that she would've felt condemned and dirty had she only heard that; the forgiveness (the grace, the kindness) she received from Jesus motivated her to stop committing adultery. Tim Keller says it this way, "Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God's saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God's mercy and grace." 

While there is no shortage of drop dead gorgeous females that we are bombarded with day in and day out, and plenty of funny women to aspire to be, emanating the heart of Christ is still, to me, the ultimate goal. A pure heart and a humble spirit doesn't wrinkle over time. Virtuous character is always remembered, and quite often waters the spirits of those who come in contact with it. What do I want to be known for? Having light in my heart and a glimmer in my eyes that didn't come from anything this world has to offer. Most importantly, I want to be remembered as being a woman who loved deeply, forgave endlessly, and bestowed unto others the same grace bestowed unto her. 

 

grace: unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor of God

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