Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Columbo: the Power of Humility

It is a beautiful crisp Fall day here at Wheaton College. As a visitor, I get to sup from all the resources they have available. I have been wondering whether or not to attend, to get a Masters in something - say Biblical Studies - but I don't think it'll happen.

I don't like the idea a person has to spend as much money as for a small home to get an education, especially one we can get by reading the Word and studying on our own. Just can't justify it.

But I do love the men and women here. I am impressed that they love Jesus and seek to make Him known. The Lord also reminded me of how many gracious Christian men work here that I know on sight and personally. No, we're not close buddies or anything, but if you work at Wheaton College, and know your stuff, you probably love Jesus. And if you have spent hours and hours a week studying the Bible, you and I have a lot in common.

I feel like a redneck sometimes and very tactless. Thankfully, if the subject is freedom in grace and the power of God, I can be tactless - like Paul was, like Jesus was.

Recently my landlady and I have re-discovered Columbo. I love his self-effacing style, his lack of pretension, his very humble roots and appetites. Again and again, he closes the loop on a murderer by being importune, by remembering all the facts and refusing to ignore details. He's also relentless in his pursuit of truth.

There are only a couple of times Columbo really comes out and verbally slams the person who committed the crime - and that's only after they get uppity and need a dressing down. Watch this clip below - the first part is the earliest incarnation of the lieutenant - before Peter Falk took him over.

That is more like Jesus than you may guess at first.

Columbo has all the authority he needs to slap cuffs on any suspect. He could harrass them and abuse them like so many cops on other shows do (and that is precisely what he threatens in the first part of the clip, isn't it?) But once Falk got a hold of him, he came up with the legendary modus operandi we all know. "Excuse me sir - I'm sorry to bother you - just one last question..."

It is calculated. It is intentional. Pay attention and you will see Columbo get closer and closer to the real murderer as time goes on - but what gives them away each episode is how they begin to "aid" him in finding justifications for erroneous facts.

Columbo knows they did it the moment they begin "helping". Falk as Columbo actually smiles pleasantly and says invariably: "You're probably right, sir/ma'am. That must have been it." But he knows. He knows.

Intentionally Columbo makes every attempt to stay a friend to these villains until he reveals he knows the truth.

He's brilliant - honestly brilliant - and takes his sweet time "to get his man."

Watch this clip - he's talking to a certified genius of "The Sigma Club", the killer and he explains he's always had to face off with "smart people":

So much like Jesus.

You see, freedom and truth are not found in academia or in just using our mind. Its being in humble, working what's before you, accepting the facts as they are, not as other people twist or distort them -nor as you want them to be.

Jesus tells us hard things about ourselves, but we can take it because He is so humble, so gracious. You ever wonder why he called himself "the son of Man"? Some uppity-schmuck theologian misses the point entirely when they say its a messianic title. That's true, but not why He said it.

He's being self-effacing. He KNOWS He is deity incarnate. He KNEW the Father before time began. He's pulling a Columbo if you get my drift. He wears that title Himself to show His disciples that they are not here to be "BMOC"s (Big Men on Campus), but to be servants.

Again, I'm using Eugene Peterson's The Message for Mark 10:41-45:
When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down.

"You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage."

Yesterday I heard a message from Dr. James McDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel. He covered this very subject (Wow - God's on to me.) He pointed out its not the people with real legitimate authority who spend their time and authority caring for others we fear and dread.

Its the underpaid "security guard at the library, the president of the homeowner's association, the administrator who's only got a tiny amount of authority" - these people wield their power to control and edit other lives. They are painful to watch in action.

To be great, you must serve. No matter how smart you are. No matter how much authority you have.

In humility. In humility.

Which may be the hardest work of all.

Thanks, Frank!

(Columbo's first name, don't you know? Well... I think its a good guess anyway.)


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