When Peter says to “humble yourself under the might hand of God,” he proclaims the basis for human liberty and wholeness.
Our Father God is all-powerful, beautiful beyond words, and just. If he were to appear to any one of us, the shock and awe would compel our obedience, our worship, our adoration. Yet He does not wish to have our compulsion.
He is always right. His will is always good for us, but God would have us as children and not slaves. God asks for a free man’s worship and will not overwhelm our feeble defenses. He let’s us choose to kneel, because true submission to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful must come with a choice or it is no submission at all.
He places within us a longing for Himself, but also the means to resist that longing. His handmaiden Wisdom cries out in a voice we must hear, but we can ignore. God comes through mediators: nature, angels, prophets.
We are born to be free, but we must submit to God in order to be free, because we are too small to be free in ourselves. We need grounds for our freedom, a way to even know our freedom and God created us to find that basis and knowledge in a loving relationship with Himself.
Instead, we take all the loves God sends to woo us and worship them. We think that if cannot have certain material possessions, lovers, or other gods that we cannot be happy. This never works out, because as we are we cannot be happy any more than we can be free.
Our entire lives before death must be a preparation for the world to come. We can only be whole there and time is provided for planting the seed of wholeness that will blossom in that timeless moment when we move through death to a greater life.
God demands our submission, because He is due our worship as a Good God, but we should rejoice to offer it, because God loves us. He does not humble us to crush us and grind our being into His own: we could add nothing to Him. Instead, God knelt to propose to us in the Incarnation and now asks us to humble ourselves in return.
He emptied Himself of divinity so that if we would empty ourselves of pride, He could make us, at last ourselves. We give up ruin and gain all that a man can gain.
In Jesus, God became fully human so that He could touch us: mind to mind, hand to hand. He can reach down to us and so when we bow in adoration, by our choice, God can be understood in the person of Jesus Christ.
In His Divine Essence, God is so other as to be unknowable, but in Jesus all that can be known is known. It is true that the kneeling will mean giving up immoderation, temporal desires, and my will, but this emptying comes with the promise from a Being who cannot lie that he will raise us up to a new life.
A critic of Christianity once mocked me by saying I worship “zombie Jesus,” but Jesus is not undead, Jesus is alive. We, as we are now, are dying and nothing can stop that process. We are fading away, but Jesus has come . . . not to prolong our dying, making us merely undead, but to exchange our dying for living.
Jesus is alive and soon we will be as well if we will be humble ourselves to be exalted.