“At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men’s sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvellously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”
Brothers Karamazov, “Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8
Humility is a choice. Its a choice made in response to God as revealed to us in the Gospel. When we see Jesus coming from the throne room of heaven to take up the cradle of Bethlehem we can seek grace for humility. When we see Jesus coming from the communion of the Father and Spirit in order to be the Son on the cross we must seek grace for humility. Such love constrains us! Humility is a choice made in response to the knowledge of God.
7Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
What was obvious to Jesus is also obvious to others. When we are eager for respect, honour, position, status, we will climb over others to get into the seat of honour. Those who demand honour cannot calibrate the mind of a greater host. We are at the mercy of the host; to act otherwise is to show our smallness, pettiness, jealousy, vanity, and fear.
Jesus’ words here are not just wisdom for endearing ourselves to others by refusing to manipulate social politics for personal gain. Jesus is showing us the basic internal posture of kingdom citizens. His Kingdom citizens entrust themselves to the Host of the Great Wedding Feast. We are His servants, invited to His party, and He decides how, when, where, and why to exalt us.
Humility is a choice. It only becomes unconscious and part of our character when we are glad to be at the party with Jesus and anyone else He has included. Humility becomes our character as we are extraordinarily confident and secure in the Father’s love and acceptance of us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Then it doesn’t matter where we sit.
6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
“Humble yourselves” is a choice.
As a follower of Jesus humility is a choice made with a prevailing view of life and all the pressures we face that says God is above all and that His timing is right. See vs. 6
Choosing humility doesn’t mean we ignore reality, rather the cues that create anxiety become cues for faith — for us to trust Him, “To cast our anxieties on him” because He cares for us!
I’m so humble, except when I’m not getting my way. Ha! Peter’s audience was a group under increasing pressure because of their faith in God and identification with Jesus. They were having to wait for relief. When I am under pressure does it cue up faith? Do I somehow believe God has forgotten me? or Do I revert to a twisted view of God that is not consistent with the Gospel? Anxiety can paralyze us from doing what we must do. And anxiety can create compulsive and frantic behaviours. Being busy or going into hiding may not be actions of faith. But they could be.
The first action of Gospel inspired faith in Jesus when the pressures of life come screaming at us is to pray: to audibly cast our anxieties on Him, in a declaration of His faithful care.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for the grace to trust that you care for me. When the pressures of life scream at me, let me learn the new habit of humility: to prayerfully trust you with my issues and to declare your care for me. I trust that you will direct me and those with me to keep in step with what your Spirit is doing here and now for the glory of your Son and His Kingdom. AMEN.
5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
To those who are not old– be subject to the elders. All of you: the elders and the younger: Put on humility. “clothe yourselves”. toward one another. God is against the proud. God gives grace to the humble.
The ancient world did not value humility on a broad scale. Even today there are cultures and people that do not value humility. John Dickson argues in Humilitas that valuing humility broadly in our culture is a Christian development.
Hubris or pride is antithetical to the life God wants for us. Humility opens the door to God’s grace and actually enlarges a person in their influence and their capacity to love well.
The problem with pride is that we are usually not conscious of it. I reek of it and don’t know it, because its the “odor” I’ve gotten used to. So the Word of God asks us to develop a new habit in response to the Gospel. In our relationships with those who are older and with those who are younger we must make a decision to “put on humility” toward each other.
The younger person thinks the older people don’t know anything.
The older person thinks the younger people don’t know anything.
Ah, humility. Humility says I can learn from you, younger and older. Humility says, I can let you know the truth about me, younger and older. Humility says, I am looking for God’s grace in my relationships with you because of the incredible hope and potential of the power of Jesus Christ unleashed in your life through the Gospel.
Listen to John talk about humility and his book.
Heavenly Father, I don’t want to just play dress up when it comes to humility. Grant me the wisdom to appreciate your mercy and grace shown me in the Gospel of Jesus. Fill me with your Spirit. I need you to change me from the inside out. Help me learn from others, both younger and older today. AMEN.
“I am not all that important.” I agree, humility is a virtue to be nurtured and appreciated. However, I have been surprised to hear now from several sources, “humility” as a reason not to pursue God. In contrast to my friend who believes to accept the reality of God would diminish himself, this “atheist” upheld his position of non-engagement in the question of God as one that emerged from humility. “I am not all that important, and humans are not all that important. Why would I need a god to tell me I’m significant? We don’t really matter.”
Indeed even a cursory look at the stars puts us in humbling position in regard to the universe and time. The Psalmist declared, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers–the moon and the stars you set in place–what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4
The extension of this humble view of insignificance seems to me to have a troubling consequence. If I extend the view that I don’t matter to others, then they don’t matter as well. I am not sure I would want to live in a society in which other’s don’t matter and the choices I make in respect to them don’t matter either. Such a society would eventually suffer from its corporate amnesia and enter into the chaos of distrust and the persistent pursuit of self-interest. That’s the way human hearts seem to work. We abandon the forward motion of love for tolerance; we abandon tolerance for apathy.
So it is a matter of scale. When looking at the stars, earth and its inhabitants seem relatively insignificant. However, when I look across the room or across the table, I am glad there is someone who cares or takes an interest in me. If I am really so insignificant, why do I care to be loved? And it is at this point that the Christian message becomes very particular and quite scaled down. God, who in three persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, engaged in the Creation of all we see, got very personal with us. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is described in the most physical and close terms: “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory the glory of the Father’s one and only Son….God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” John 1:14, 17-18 (NLT)
The Gospel is announced in Jesus’ incarnation; God is getting up close and personal. He crossed the universe to announce and complete His love for us…for me…for you.