A lot of Christians argue that sin is rooted in pride, but I’ve mentioned on here before that I prefer the formulation that all sin is rooted in displacing God from his rightful place.
Humility is apparently the antonym of pride, and that’s why I mention sin here. The book on humility that I’m reading beats a drum of humility is the foundation for Christian virtue because of the fact that pride is the foundation of sin. His point still works for my preference, so I’m just going to run with it. Why is humility so essential?
To support his claim, the author repeatedly brings up the fact that even the disciples disputed among themselves about who was the greatest of them. These were men that walked with Jesus and heard his preaching first-hand. It’s hardly believable that they would do this and yet that this event is included in scripture makes scripture all the more wonderful. The disciples didn’t understand. The disciples didn’t understand. The disciples didn’t understand. Again, the disciples didn’t understand
So the disciples didn’t understand.
This is why humility is so foundational to Christian virtue and Christian character. The disciples saw what we can only read about, and yet they didn’t understand. This reality helps me see that all of my own “understanding life” that was based on ungodly teaching and ungodly people was only an obstruction to God. It also helps me understand the reality of sin. If the disciples didn’t understand, then no one will ever fully understand. We can only put our faith in the hope that God will fulfill his promises.
Specifically, at work tonight a buddy mentioned something about “love” being impossible to define. I said I disagreed and attempted to paraphrase some of Paul’s teaching on “love”. As I believe there is good reason to admit that Paul’s teaching is the inspired Word of God, all that has to happen for God to fulfill his promises is that Paul’s definition is something that I can experience and evaluate. As a divorcee, I can confess that I didn’t “love” my ex-wife. That the relationship divorced is no big shocker then. As a father, though, I now have two responsibilities. I have to work very hard to love my ex-wife in order to prove to my daughter that God exists, moreover when my daughter wants to know what love is, I have to choose how to teach her. Obviously I will teach her God’s definition. Unlike other options, God’s definition is grounded in reality, easy to evaluate its application, and points to a relationship that can only be described as healthy and rich.
Seriously, what are my (our) other options? I guess I could use your definition? Or Hollywood’s? I know that if I try to develop one as I go, I will not succeed. Lesson learned.
Do you see how Christianity isn’t wish-fulfillment or an opiate of the masses? It is simply a religion which confronts reality for what it is. You and I are in a predicament. The predicament is that we can choose humility. The predicament is that humility seems to be at once worthy and suicidal. As for me, I’m choosing humility.
Submitting to the will of Almighty God while living in America is nearly nonsensical.
“Submit,” God says.
“Never!” we answer. “We broke free from all yokes forever when we left England!”
“Submit,” God says.
“No, thank you, Massa. No, thank you, Uncle Tom,” we answer. “We’ve ended slavery.”
Are you still thinking clearly? Or has lizard brain taken over? Because I submit to you here that my study and heavy attempt at Christian humility has recently opened my mind to the value of submission. You might say it has “freed my mind“.
The crux of humility is recognizing that we’re already and always enslaved. It’s not a question of how to escape submission. The real question is, “To whom should we submit?” Think about it like this. Is there ever a time when you’re not an example? Do you see that no matter how you behave, even if you become a recluse in a cave, you’re an example? Like gravity, it is inescapable. Christian humility, demanded by the triune God, bases itself on the fact that you’re enslaved to sin. This is especially relevant to Americans, of which I am one.
You see, I thought I was free. I believed I had freedom. I thought the rest of the planet was in darkness and America was the light of hope to show the way. I thought that science had displaced God. I thought human slavery was over.
Now, it turns out slavery might have just moved to the underground. Now, it turns out science is an inadequate worldview, not just a method of studying life. Now, it turns out the majority world doesn’t really consider America in its decision making rubric and no matter who wins the election, everyone knows she’s a ridiculous example of a person and in no way worthy of emulation.
Moreover, Americans, so-called educated Americans, love living outside of submission to God. That’s because God doesn’t exist, they say. And yet the unifying principle behind the strongest, most terrifying street-gang in the world is a god-based religion called Islam. My trouble with using this fact like some suggest as merely evidence that we need to remove God entirely from life because *clearly* the concept of God is too dangerous, my problem is that I can’t get a read on what’s happening in Europe. Is Islam over-running Europe? By what standard should I (we) measure the facts? Can we concede that Islam is over-running Europe if/when one formerly western country adopts Sharia-law in the coming decades? Stopping the spread of Islam seems to require more than asserting “God doesn’t exist.” Maybe it can be stopped by asking, “Which god is God?”
The reality of current events seems to contradict the idea that American Individualism is worthy of our submission.
“Submit,” says God.
“I don’t know,” we answer. “I think we still have more to lose.”
“Submit,” says God.
“Every act of virtue which does not proceed from a supernatural motive, in order to bring us to everlasting bliss, is of no value.”
How’s that for some not-so-light reading? Ha.
I feel like I can drive myself crazy considering my intentions in life. As I’ve written before, I love making people laugh. But what’s my intention behind comedy? Simple ego? And if it’s not ego, say that I really am motivated by pure intentions to add levity to our days and be a friendly face, then in admitting that or concluding that I probably have taken too prideful a position. Who am I to possess the power to enrich someone’s day?
At least in the little book on humility that I am now reading, the relevance of intentions is on full display. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the beginning part of this semester’s work on humility, it is that my personality is big. That’s true for good or bad. I don’t even know how to behave if I am forced to go into a veritable stealth mode. People who come to know me call me out and ask what’s wrong if I don’t actively participate in life.
One thing that is particularly intriguing to me this last week is the idea of announcing humility. The author warns that the moment we believe we’re humble, we stop being humble. Cool. I get it. But I am not so sure I understand what humility looks like, then.
In the past, I’ve defined my sense of humor as “cosmic humor”. I liked that description because it captured that I thought life itself was funny and moreover that I thought my thoughts were funny, because who am I to have thoughts at all? Some random human? And now, if I don’t think life is funny at all, but a serious endeavor that can be royally messed up, can I still have a cosmic sense of humor in the second sense? In the, “Who am I ask anyone to take me seriously?” sense.
I don’t know. These reflections aren’t coming that naturally, as I’m sure you can tell. I guess overall I feel like I am gaining some head knowledge about the importance of constant recognition of our status as creatures vs. creators. But my life isn’t too bad right now, and it’s difficult to not draw cause and effect relationships that begin with me doing the right thing in seeking God as the first cause, even though I intellectually conclude that God initiated the whole shebang (relationship). Who knows? For now, I’m just thankful for my fair portion of health and my daughter and the list goes on.