Theology isn’t just an academic exercise; it really matters. A.W. Tozer wrote that the most important thing about us is what we believe to be true about God. How we think of God, and what we believe to be true of him, will determine, more than any other thing, the manner in which we live. To live well—that is, to flourish in God—we must be rooted in rich theological soil. We must have a vibrant and robust theology in order to stand against the stiff breeze of popular philosophy and common cultural religion. In a billowing and raging sea of political correctness and therapeutic moralistic deism, a rich and robust theology will be what lashes you to the Rock, preventing you from drifting away in the rolling tide of dumbed-down, liberal spirituality, or short-sighted, fundamentalist dogma.
In fact, knowing God well is a worthy end in itself. It is a tremendous joy to know, deeply and truly, your maker, redeemer, and re-creator. To think rightly of him is freedom from despair and deception. Good theology, according to the author of Hebrews, is the cure for spiritual apathy (Hebrews 2:1). To know God is to love God is to obey God.
My hope is to be a part of a community that develops a rich and robust way of thinking about God. We must search out the deep things of God, meditate upon the Scriptures, and form, as best our shallow minds can comprehend, a thorough and faithful understanding of the character of God. We will not know him fully, but we can know him well.
But where do we begin? What is the foundation of God’s character? What is the most important thing about him? Is it his love for all creation? Is it the relentless pursuit of his own glory? Is it his yearning for justice? Is it his complete holiness? Is it his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence?
All of these, and more, are vital for understanding God because they are important elements of his character. But I believe there is one thing that underlies them all—the humility of God. God’s humility is the soil out of which his other, better-known attributes grow, and it defines how he exhibits them to his creation. Behind the Trinity, behind Creation, and behind the Incarnation is God’s infinite humility. If we are to ever understand God, we must first know that he is humble. At the root of all that he is and does lies an infinite well of humility.
So then, what does it mean to be humble? For us, to be humble means to see ourselves rightly, particularly in relation to God. Paul urged us “to consider ourselves with sober judgment.” Maintaining a humble view of oneself requires that we know ourselves well and honestly, being neither swelled with pride nor deflated with self-hate. A humble life is lived in right relationship—that is, in submission—to God. It is to do things that you might otherwise consider beneath yourself–things that you don’t want to do, but know that God requires of you.
But what does it mean for God to be humble? There is no one above him by which he can define himself, no one greater who can set tell him what it means to “consider yourself with sober judgment.” Like all of God’s attributes, the humility of God does not depend upon an external standard for definition or judgment. God is humble in relation to himself. Humility is that condition of the heart which is directed toward others in service, even to the degradation of oneself, and this is exactly what we see in the actions of God as revealed in Scripture.
God reveals his humility when he does anything that is beneath the dignity of his divinity. The sheer act of God pursuing a relationship with beings he created is the most thoroughgoing example of his humility. It permeates our experience of God so much that we take it for granted. God condescends to use our words and our language to communicate to us. We can only know him because he humbles himself enough to be known. He bends down to us so that we might be lifted up to him.