THE SACRED GRACE OF HUMILITY
I Pet.5: …Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Let me say at the outset that the more I am humbled the more clearly I see Him. We as a culture within and without the church have so diluted the definition of humility that true Biblical humility no longer is even pursued. We live in a culture of achievement and individualism and boldness and self elevation. We look for heroes who will promote themselves and even belittle their opponents. We support politicians who inflate their own achievements and downgrade their opponent’s. Even in the church the solo singer as applauded and the great expositor draws great crowds. We have competitions to see which youths can memorize the most Scripture and then they receive a trophy.
Humility is a rare word in our cultural glossary. Our culture thrives on arguments and criticism. Listen to ten minutes of any talk radio or television show and you will hear absolutely no humility and a truck load of criticism. Listen to an evangelical family at the dinner tables of around the television and you will hear them criticism, and in some cases mock, the politicians they most dislike. Just read the comment section on Christian blogs including this one and it will very often disintegrate into personal arguments and self righteous presentations of Scripture.
But we as believers are called to a life of humility. And there is no greater example of humility that the Lord Jesus. And yet even as I say this many self righteous minds go to the scourging of the Temple. Yes men and women will take the life of Jesus, cull out some portion, and present as the whole. We aren’t even willing to see and admit the abject humility not only displayed by Jesus but just the mind boggling humility when God came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Our fallen natures resist any form of humility even to the place where we are unwilling to avoid an argument we believe we could “win” in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
This culture is consumed with competitive sports. We adore a winner and hate a loser. From the earliest age our children sense that to lose is a disgrace regardless of how we teach them sportsmanship. They witness ugliness even at the T-ball level, and when they get a good hit people cheer but only some half hearted encouragement when they fail. They see family members show exuberance for sports unlike anything they show for Jesus. People wear T-shirts which tout their team and sometimes denigrate their adversaries. In a way it is harmless fun but in another way it generates an atmosphere which is rich in pride and absent in humility. And that spirit has also permeated the church.
The church has adopted the patriotic spirit which is in no way humble. The pastor will say that America is the “best country in the world” and all the church members nod and even applaud such a statement. To say people are filled with pride at being an America is an understatement. Churches even have slogans meant to suggest they are a great place for you and your family. Clothed with humility? I think not.
Who speaks at “Christian” conferences? Those who have large churches and have written books draw crowds. The faithful pastor who toils in some small, rural church is invited to come and listen but not to speak. How many times is a pastor or preacher introduced as “ a mighty man of God” or an “anointed preacher” or some other personal tribute or accolade? Even among so called “orthodox” people there are a set of revered men who are showered with compliments and listened to as if they were the oracle of God. And these men receive no correction from their “subordinates” and their followers bristle at the hint of some words that are not linguistic flowers thrown before them. If I mention Joel Osteen I am applauded but if I mention John MacArthur I am warned. Oh but my dear friends we all need correction, and we have much land to cross to reach being clothed with humility.
But let us embrace spiritual reality here? Who are we that God evens takes notice of us much less redeems our souls? With all our doctrinal bluster even to the point of embracing a doctrine with a man’s name as its moniker we show just how man centered we are even while self righteously proclaiming others to embrace a man centered faith. Through a systematic exposure to this fallen culture we have become affected and infected by its diabolical undertow. And after being affected the church has even embraced that which resists the Spirit and in no way represents Christ. Humility is not even sought much less understood as deep and foundational essence of the faith that follows Jesus. In fact, without a genuine and self denying pursuit of humility we live a religion which places ourselves as the deity.
Please do not see this post as a revelation of my own successful journey to be clothed with humility. God forbid. I have found that journey to be very treacherous and fraught with all kinds of obvious and not so obvious detours. My flesh and my pride are relentless deceivers who are quick to assure me of my humility even while they plot against it. I have found being clothed with humility a pursuit rather than a destination. And when I read places like Philippians chapter two and see the humility of my Lord and Savior I am quickly reminded that perfect humility can only be found in Him and that a genuine pursuit of humility must be a passionate pursuit of Him.
And if I told you that sometimes pride hides in a false humility would you believe me? One of the most difficult things to do is to receive some injustice or unfair criticism and endure it before the Lord without sharing it with a single human being. For when we seek human affirmation it many times ministers to the flesh and not the spirit. Jesus opened not His mouth during a crucial segment of His “trial” and we are called to do the same. That, my friends, is most difficult. We seek affirmation and support and the partial alleviation which comes from friends telling us things about ourselves we wish to hear. But true humility which dies to self and lives Christ needs no affirmation since He is and always will be our one true affirmation.
And so we are faced, if you open our eyes and ears, with an immeasurable challenge. If we desire to define humility in succinct terms then we can say that true humility is being and living like Jesus. And the church has so devalued that revelation that is presents little challenge at all. I mean go to church is about it now. But that is a profound affront to Christ and the gospel narratives which present a Creator/Savior who exhibits a humility which goes deeper than any of us can even imagine. And yet on one hand we have imprisoned Him within our theologies and on the other hand we have created a relevant and hip Jesus. He has become a motivation for our music but not our lives. We use Him for our own agendas and many times we seek those same agendas without Him at all. We present Him as a hater of sinners instead of a lover of the vilest of sinners.
And in all these creations of men we still call “Jesus” we treat Him like our own divine marionette rather than the Supreme Being He is. And if we truly take His true revelation and compare it with the gospel revelations we surely must see our personal shame. We have elevated ourselves in so many ways and in so doing presented a false revelation of the Suffering Savior. And instead of seeking brokenness and humility we have sought morality and religion and even national pride. Oh it is such a miserable indictment to all of us. We cannot escape our shame. The only relief from our sinful situation is a repentance fueled awakening that passionately seeks to ferret out everything which is not of Him but has found safe haven within our hearts. And after the Spirit of God shows us the beginning of our sin, we pursue the life of Jesus and our own death. This is the narrow path.
That, my friends, is true discipleship. It can be no other way. Count the cost.