The humility of God

“One must have the courage to say that the goodness of Christ appeared greater and more divine and truly conformed to the image of the Father when ‘he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8) than would be the case if he did not will to become a slave for the salvation of the world.”

Origen, Spirit & Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings, ed. Hans Urs von Balthasar (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1984), p. 127.

This beautiful passage from Origen suggests something about the divine nature that we seldom give as much credit as we should. Often, we think of the humility of Christ as something accidental, added on at the right time, solely “for us and for our salvation.” It is true, no doubt, that the humility of our Lord in the Incarnation is part of God’s response to sin, suffering, and death. But, if Origen is right (and here, at least, he seems so to me), the humility of Jesus points to an eternal humility within the Godhead. Never is Christ more like the Father than in his humility and obedience unto death. From beginning to end, the story of Jesus Christ reveals the true character of God. In his person, the Son bears the very imprint of the divine nature (see Hebrews 1:1-4). And so, we ought to rethink our conception of God, from the ground up, in light of the humble, merciful, self-offering of Jesus Christ. Or, as the collect appointed for Proper 21 would suggest, God’s “almighty power” is declared chiefly in “showing mercy and pity.” (BCP, p. 234) In all that he does and suffers for us, Jesus reveals the Father’s love. Indeed, he and the Father are one.

The Rev. Bill Carroll serves as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. His parish blog is at here.

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