April 7th, 2014 | By admin
By Paul Holland
“At war’s end, he stood alone at the pinnacle of power, but he never became drunk with that influence, as had so many generals before him, and treated his commission as a public trust to be returned as soon as possible to the people’s representatives” (Chernow, 457). The “he” of whom Chernow writes is General George Washington. We were taught growing up that humility was one of Washington’s highest virtues.
Following the victory at Yorktown and the end of the Revolutionary War, Washington, as Chernow writes, was practically worshiped by the American people. He was a hero to so many, and more than a hero. It has not his victories that brought such praise. He lost more battles than he won. But he had tremendous perseverance. He was courageous in battle. He fought for his men who needed better pay and clothes. He tried to refrain his men from abusing their role as a soldier and protect homes and belongings of the private citizen.
When the dust settled, Washington was left standing tall in the eyes of his countrymen. When the dust settled, Washington put down his sword. That act was nearly unprecedented in the annals of human history.
King George III had a court painter named Benjamin West. Following the revolution, George asked West of Washington’s ambition. Would he be the head of the army? He could have been a dictator. Would he be the head of state? He could have been king.
But West informed King George that Washington’s sole ambition was to return to Mount Vernon and be a farmer. King George was struck by such meekness. “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world” (Chernow, 454).
Of course, Washington is not the great man in the world. But his actions do give some context for understanding the great sacrifice that our Savior, Jesus Christ, made. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Jesus gave up the joys of heaven to come to earth. He had (at least) two opportunities to become king and He turned that down (Luke 4:5-6; John 6:15). But, nothing compares to the sacrifice Jesus made in coming to earth, to wash feet, to die for His creation. In fact, depending on the importance of Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 15:28 (see Mike Johnson’s study The Restructuring of Heaven), Jesus’ sacrifice may go even deeper than simply leaving heaven to come to earth: “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
In light of this inspiring example of humility in our Lord, let us “do as He did” (see John 13:15).