Rant by Gene
Humility is (read: should be) a key characteristic in a Christian’s life. Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”. Peter draws emphasis to it three times in his first letter as a character trait we should possess. It’s a common thing to read of in the Bible. It’s something you should probably hear about on occasion from the pulpit. But it isn’t something you hear talked about on a daily basis too much. So you can imagine my surprise when a certain bit of humility was shown in a movie I saw earlier this year. Before a fight scene. Between apes!
I’ll be discussing some specifics related to the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I reviewed earlier this year. If you have not seen it yet I would advise doing that before continuing. Fast-forward in your minds to the end of the film. Caesar is climbing the tower to meet Koba and reclaim leadership of the ape community. Caesar is wounded. He suffered a near fatal gunshot wound at Koba’s hands, and had been recovering for the last couple of days. He strains to make it to the top, but finally does much to the surprise of Koba and all the apes. They had thought he died. Caesar faces Koba. When it’s clear he wants to fight, we have this exchange before it comes to blows.
Koba: “Caesar weak”
Caesar: “Koba weaker”
It’s so simple you might miss everything it actually says. Caesar didn’t deny his weakness. He was without question physically weaker than Koba at that time. He was barely able to make the climb to the top of the tower. He was also weak in his support. The great majority of the ape community abandoned his peaceful ideals and followed Koba headlong into his war against the humans.
The way Caesar phrased his retort to Koba, I think, says a lot. He could’ve said anything there: “I’ve bloodied you up before, Koba.”, or, “Really? You’re blind in one eye!”, or, “I’m still stronger than you”. He didn’t puff himself up or stroke his own ego. Just simply, “Koba weaker”. I think that shows a measure of humility on Caesar’s part.
Now of course, it follows that Caesar is implying that he’s stronger. But that’s not how he chose to phrase it. He granted the fact that he was weak. He was in no condition to be fighting anyone. He knew that. But despite his weakness, he chose to fight. I think there’s a message in there that Christians can latch onto, and it has to do with when Paul thought he was at his weakest.
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from exalting myself. Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” -2 Corinthians 12:7-9
This is a favorite verse of many, and a good one to recall when facing trials and tribulations. No one can say for sure what exactly the “thorn in the flesh” was that Paul had, but you could imagine it being any number of things. The takeaway is that “power is perfected in weakness”. This thorn in the flesh kept Paul from exalting himself in some way, that resulted in his humility to some measure, and when he thought himself weak he turned to Christ all the more. Because he was turning to Christ and not relying on himself, that made him stronger!
Apply that to ourselves now. When do you rely on God the most? When you’re being exalted by others? When you’re enjoying great success? Or is it when things aren’t going well? Or when there is something you need? We can be impressive on our own to our friends and family. We can even convince ourselves that we’re pretty hot stuff. None of that is worth anything to God. God is interested in our eternal salvation, not our temporal fame. No matter how good we think we are, we fall miserably short of the perfection needed to be with the Father in eternity. Only Jesus fills that gap. When we follow His word and humble ourselves to his commands, power truly is perfected in weakness.