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FIRST-PERSON: On humility

Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, via Wikimedia Commons

NASHVILLE (BP) – Nobody really knows how to be humble.

A compliment may leave us unsure how to respond except to say, “Thank you.”

A gift may stir us to stumble for the right words of appreciation for the giver’s thoughtfulness.

Someone’s advice or exhortation, if well-received, may prompt us to affirm its helpfulness. Or, if unwelcome, it challenges us to a graciousness that transcends contentiousness.

Spur-of-the moment humility can seem so insufficient compared to the feelings in our hearts that can’t be captured in mere words.

At times, humility entails courage. In fact, it can be one of the most courageous things someone can do.

It may be the humility to say, “I was wrong,” and ask for a person’s forgiveness.

And if, in humble prayer, you believe your words or actions were justified, it may entail the courage to say, “I know I said something that came across as harsh” or “I did something that seemed uncaring.” And then express regret. Or ask forgiveness for what your loved one, friend, neighbor or coworker experienced at the time.

Humility goes deeper than good human relations. It is among the distinguishing marks of a follower of Christ.

Perhaps the most poignant instruction in Scripture is in the apostle Peter’s first letter (1 Peter 5:5-7): “All of you, clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ [a phrase from Proverbs 3:34]. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Reflect on some of the phrases in the passage:

  • “… All of you.” No exceptions among those who have given their hearts to Christ in response to His death and resurrection and, thus, are being transformed by the Holy Spirit through his forgiveness, love and new birth.
  • “… clothe yourselves.” When getting dressed for the day or ready for bed, humility also must be donned as a spiritually visible garment.
  • “…toward one another.” Humility must be accorded to everyone in our daily lives.
  • “… God opposes the proud.” No surprise there.
  • “…gives grace to the humble.” Humility is a key factor in God’s grace.
  • “… under God’s mighty hand.” We trust in God’s loving care whenever we say or do something with humility.
  • “… that he may lift you up.” Humility is rewarding.
  • “… in due time.” No doubt, humility’s healing power may take time in the lives of those we have hurt.
  • “… Cast all your anxiety on him.” Yes, humility can have its anxious moments.
  • “… because he cares for you.” God calls us to a humility that nurtures our souls and, not surprisingly, blesses us with the joy of drawing people to Jesus.

Need any more proof of God’s seriousness about humility? Ponder the apostle Paul’s words in one of his letters (Philippians 2:5-11):

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus … [who] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. … [He] humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There are plenty of significant words and phrases in what Paul wrote about Jesus – certainly “humbled himself” is as impactful as any.