Imitate Jesus’ Humility and Tenderness
“Christ suffered for you, leaving a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 PET. 2:21.
1. Why will imitating Jesus draw us closer to Jehovah?
WE TEND to imitate those whose personality and ways we admire. Of all the humans who have walked the earth, no one is more worthy of imitation than Jesus Christ. Why is that? Jesus himself once said: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Jesus reflects his Father’s personality so perfectly that observing the Son is like seeing the Father. Therefore, as we imitate Jesus, we draw closer to Jehovah, the greatest Personage in the universe. What a reward for imitating the qualities and ways of his Son!
2, 3. (a) Why did Jehovah provide us with a written portrait of his Son, and what does Jehovah expect us to do? (b) What will we discuss in this article and in the next?
2 How, though, can we know what Jesus is like? Thankfully, we have an inspired written portrait of Jesus. Jehovah provided that record, as found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, because he wants us to become acquainted with his Son so that we can imitate him. (Read 1 Peter 2:21.) In the Bible, the example Jesus left is compared to “steps,” or footprints. In effect, Jehovah is telling us to walk behind Jesus and match our steps to his. Of course, Jesus left a perfect example for us, and we are far from perfect. But Jehovah does not expect us to follow Jesus’ steps perfectly. Rather, the Father expects us to imitate his Son to the best of our ability as imperfect humans.
3 Let us, then, consider some of Jesus’ appealing qualities. In this article, we will discuss his humility and tenderness; in the next, we will examine his courage and discernment. Regarding each quality, we will answer three questions: What does it mean? How did Jesus exemplify it? How can we imitate him?
JESUS IS HUMBLE
4. How would you define humility?
4 What is humility? In this proud world, some may think that humility suggests weakness or lack of confidence. Often, though, just the opposite is true. Showing humility calls for strength and courage. Humility has been defined as “the attitude opposite of pride and arrogance.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word translated “humility” may be rendered “lowliness of mind.” (Phil. 2:3, ftn.) Humility begins with the way we think about ourselves. “Humility is to know how lowly we really are before God,” says one Bible dictionary. If we are truly humble before God, we will also refrain from estimating ourselves to be above our fellow humans. (Rom. 12:3) It is not easy for imperfect humans to cultivate humility. But we can learn to be humble if we reflect on our standing before God and follow in the footsteps of his Son.
5, 6. (a) Who is Michael the archangel? (b) How did Michael show a humble attitude?
5 How did Jesus demonstrate humility? God’s Son has a long record of humility, showing it both as a powerful spirit creature in heaven and as a perfect man on earth. Consider a few examples.
6 His attitude. The Bible writer Jude recorded an example from Jesus’ prehuman existence. (Read Jude 9.) As Michael the archangel, Jesus “had a difference with the Devil” and “was disputing” with that wicked one. The issue involved “Moses’ body.” Recall that after Moses died, Jehovah buried the body in an unknown location. (Deut. 34:5, 6) Perhaps the Devil wanted to use Moses’ remains to promote false worship. Whatever evil purpose the Devil had in mind, Michael took a courageous stand. One reference work notes that the Greek terms rendered “had a difference” and “disputing” are “also used in relation to a legal dispute” and may suggest “that Michael ‘challenged the Devil’s right’ to take Moses’ body.” Yet, the Chief Angel recognized that it was not his place to bring judgment. Rather, he referred the case to the Supreme Judge, Jehovah. Michael thus refrained from overstepping his authority, even under provocation. What a humble attitude!
7. How did Jesus show humility in his speech and in his actions?
7 During his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke and acted in ways that revealed genuine humility. His speech. He never called undue attention to himself. Instead, he directed all glory to his Father. (Mark 10:17, 18; John 7:16) He never talked down to his disciples or made them feel inferior. Rather, he dignified them, praising them for the good he saw in them and expressing his confidence in them. (Luke 22:31, 32; John 1:47) His actions. Jesus chose to live in humble circumstances unencumbered by many material things. (Matt. 8:20) He willingly performed the most menial of tasks. (John 13:3-15) He outstandingly showed humility by his obedience. (Read Philippians 2:5-8.) Unlike arrogant individuals who disdain obedience, Jesus humbly submitted to God’s will for him, becoming “obedient to the point of death.” Is it not clear that Jesus, the Son of man, was “lowly in heart”?—Matt. 11:29.
IMITATE JESUS’ HUMILITY
8, 9. How can we demonstrate humility?
8 How can we imitate Jesus in demonstrating humility? Our attitude. Humility restrains us from overstepping our authority. If we recognize that we are not authorized to sit in judgment, we will not be quick to criticize others for their faults or question their motives. (Luke 6:37; Jas. 4:12) Humility helps us to avoid being “overly righteous,” looking down on those who may not have the abilities or privileges that we have. (Eccl. 7:16) Humble elders do not view themselves as superior to fellow believers. Rather, such shepherds “consider others superior” and conduct themselves as lesser ones.—Phil. 2:3; Luke 9:48.
9 Consider W. J. Thorn, who served as a pilgrim, or traveling overseer, starting in 1894. After many years in that work, he was called to Kingdom Farm in upstate New York and worked in the henhouse. He said: “Whenever I get to thinking a great deal of myself, I take myself into the corner, so to speak, and say: ‘You little speck of dust. What have you got to be proud of?’” (Read Isaiah 40:12-15.) A humble attitude indeed!
10. How can we show humility in our speech and in our actions?
10 Our speech. If we are truly lowly in heart, our words will reflect humility. (Luke 6:45) In conversations with others, we will avoid focusing on our own achievements and privileges. (Prov. 27:2) Instead, we will look for the good in our brothers and sisters and commend them for their positive qualities, abilities, and accomplishments. (Prov. 15:23) Our actions. Humble Christians are not interested in seeking prominence in this system. They would rather lead a simple life, even doing what the world might consider menial work so that they can serve Jehovah to the fullest extent possible. (1 Tim. 6:6, 8) Above all, we can show humility by our obedience. It takes lowliness of mind to “be obedient to those who are taking the lead” in the congregation and to accept and follow the direction we receive from Jehovah’s organization.—Heb. 13:17.
JESUS IS TENDER
11. Explain the meaning of tenderness.
11 What is tenderness? The word “tender” is defined as “marked by, responding to, or expressing the softer emotions.” Tenderness is a facet of love and is akin to such “softer emotions” as compassion and mercy. The Scriptures refer to “tender compassion,” “tender mercies,” and “tender affection.” (Luke 1:78; 2 Cor. 1:3; Phil. 1:8) Regarding the Scriptural call for compassion, one Bible reference work says: “That call is more than an appeal for us to feel with and for the needy. It is a call to care enough to become involved and to help by taking some action that will set others’ lives on a fresh, new course.” Tenderness is a motivating force. A tender person is moved to make a difference in the lives of others.
12. What shows that Jesus felt tender compassion for others, and what did his tenderness move him to do?
12 How did Jesus show tenderness? His tender feelings and actions. Jesus felt tender compassion for others. When he saw his friend Mary and those with her weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus, Jesus openly “gave way to tears.” (Read John 11:32-35.) Then, likely stirred by heartfelt pity—just as when he raised a widow’s son—he resurrected Lazarus. (Luke 7:11-15; John 11:38-44) By means of that tender act, Jesus may have put Lazarus in line to receive life in heaven. On an earlier occasion, Jesus “felt tender affection” for a crowd that came to him. Impelled by compassion, “he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34; Kingdom Interlinear) What a life-changing experience that was for any who responded to his teachings! Note that Jesus’ tenderness was more than a feeling; it moved him to take the initiative to help others.—Matt. 15:32-38; 20:29-34; Mark 1:40-42.
13. In what way did Jesus speak tenderly to others? (See opening image.)
13 His tender words. Jesus’ tender heart moved him to speak tenderly to others, especially to the downtrodden. The apostle Matthew applied to Jesus these words of Isaiah: “No crushed reed will he break, and no smoldering wick will he extinguish.” (Isa. 42:3; Matt. 12:20) Jesus spoke in a way that lifted the spirits of those who were figuratively like a bruised reed or the wick of an oil lamp about to go out. He preached a message of hope “to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isa. 61:1) He invited those who were “toiling and loaded down” to come to him, reassuring them that they would “find refreshment” for themselves. (Matt. 11:28-30) He assured his followers that God had tender concern for each of His worshippers, including the “little ones”—those who may seem unimportant from the standpoint of the world.—Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 12:6, 7.
IMITATE JESUS’ TENDERNESS
14. How can we cultivate tender feelings for others?
14 How can we imitate Jesus in showing tenderness? Our tender feelings. Such emotions may not come naturally to us, but the Bible urges us to work at cultivating them. “The tender affections of compassion” are part of the new personality that all Christians are expected to put on. (Read Colossians 3:9, 10, 12.) How can you cultivate tender feelings for others? Open your heart wide. (2 Cor. 6:11-13) Listen carefully when someone shares his feelings and concerns. (Jas. 1:19) Use your imagination and ask yourself: ‘If I were in his situation, how would I feel? What would I need?’—1 Pet. 3:8.
15. What can we do to help those who may be like a bruised reed or a smoldering wick?
15 Our tender actions. Tenderness moves us to want to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who may be like a bruised reed or a smoldering wick. How can we help them? “Weep with those who weep,” says Romans 12:15. Downhearted ones may need empathy more than answers. One sister who felt comforted by fellow believers after the loss of her daughter says: “I appreciated it when friends came over and just cried with me.” We can also show tender affection by doing kind deeds. Do you know of a widow who needs help with repairs on her home? Is there an elderly Christian who needs transportation to get to the meetings, to go out in the ministry, or to go to the doctor? Even a small act of kindness can make a big difference in the life of a fellow worshipper in need. (1 John 3:17, 18) Above all, we can show tender concern for others by having a full share in the ministry. There is no greater way to make a difference in the lives of honesthearted ones!
16. What can we say to encourage those who are depressed?
16 Our tender words. Our tender affection for others moves us to “speak consolingly to those who are depressed.” (1 Thess. 5:14) What can we say to encourage such ones? We can lift their spirits by expressing our genuine care and concern for them. We can offer sincere commendation to help them see their positive qualities and abilities. We can remind them that Jehovah drew them to his Son, so they must be precious in his eyes. (John 6:44) We can reassure them that Jehovah deeply cares for his servants who are “brokenhearted” or “crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18) Our tender words can have a healing effect on those who need comfort.—Prov. 16:24.
17, 18. (a) Jehovah expects the elders to treat his sheep in what way? (b) What will we discuss in the next article?
17 Elders, Jehovah expects you to treat his sheep with tenderness. (Acts 20:28, 29) Remember, it is your responsibility to nourish, encourage, and refresh his sheep. (Isa. 32:1, 2; 1 Pet. 5:2-4) Hence, an elder who is tenderly compassionate does not try to control the sheep, making rules or using guilt to pressure them to do more when their circumstances do not permit them to. Rather, he endeavors to bring joy to their hearts, trusting that their love for Jehovah will move them to serve him as fully as possible.—Matt. 22:37.
18 As we reflect on Jesus’ humility and tenderness, we are surely moved to keep on walking in his footsteps. In the next article, we will discuss two more aspects of Jesus’ appealing personality—courage and discernment.