Musing on the Topic of Humility

rocky-pathOur church is currently running a series called “One Month To Live.” The most recent message was couched within the context of humility. The premise we explored suggests that, in the one month to live scenario, an individual would be much less focused on him or herself, more focused on others, and willing to live more sacrificially. The message, of course, continued to examine the attribute of humility as a much more godly enterprise and disposition than it’s opposite, pride. Because we are a “fallen” people that stand in need of redemption in order to be accepted into God’s kingdom, the message is clear: there is no justification for arrogance. This is theologically true and easily supported. So humility is the prescription for a more godly, more balanced life. To live with humility is to live as we have been called to live.

As I listened I thought to myself, “That seems just way too easy.” And for sure we don’t want to make life as a disciple more complicated. But I wouldn’t want to catch myself diluting it down to a sugary mess, either.

This whole idea of humility, in my opinion, is countered by another truth: we are created in God’s image. We are the image-bearers of the one true God. He is all-powerful. He is a warrior. He rules. As God’s image bearers, we have been created to rule as little kings and queens, too. It is our calling. It is our birthright. We are called to live out of the strength God has given us. Remember what the Angel of the Lord told Gideon: “Go in the strength you have” (Judges 6:14). We are reminded quite often of the Fall of humanity and Original Sin, but our Original Glory doesn’t get nearly as much airtime. Also c onsider:

  • “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’” Genesis 1:26
  • You are seated with Christ in the heavenly realm.” Ephesians 2:6
  • “You’ve been adopted as God’s child.” Ephesians 1:5

To live as kings and queens alongside the call to live with humility is a strange juxtaposition. Just as the Bible says, this sort of paradigm requires us to work out our faith (Philippians 2:12). It asks something of us. It requires us to engage. It would be so much easier if we were given a series of “either/or” propositions in which we simply choose the right answer. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were simply an academic exercise or equation? Boring, but certainly easier.

But I don’t think that’s our reality. Instead, I think we’ve been given “both/and” propositions and invited to embrace the tensions of life. We are kings and queens yet also called to live with humility. My favorite novelist, Robert Penn Warren, refers to this as the “anguish of option.” Particularly in the South, Warren suggests, we tend to look for a Great Alibi that will excuse us from the agony of will—the necessity to choose. So some will choose to be passive, yet humble, therefore forfeiting their charge to rule; while others will be uber-agressive, yet masters of their domain, thus forsaking the virtue of humility. To sell out to either side, of course, is the path of least resistance and allows us to avoid the tensions inherent in choice.

Warren refers to a life lived in the anguish of option. It’s messy and it’s risky. But it’s also a place where faith is required. A place where absolutes are necessary navigational tools. It’s both/and. This is adventure of the highest order. That would seem to be the life of a disciple.

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