“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In every genuine reconciliation, there is a point where both parties have softened their hearts enough to be able to begin seeing the issue through the other party’s eyes. It happens to a person when he is willing to admit to himself that maybe, just maybe, his perspective is not entirely accurate. It is a moment of sudden clarity, when she understands (probably for the first time) that she has been a bit arrogant and self-centered. This softening represents a profound shift in the relationship. It is what makes reconciliation happen. Without it, there is no reconciliation. The character trait which triggers this shift is obvious: humility. It is a personal characteristic critical to our relationships within the church. I suppose, in fact, humility is critical to healthy relationships anywhere, whether within the church or outside the church.
I believe that is why Paul lists it almost every time he talks about character traits and the fruit of the Spirit within the context of church unity. Without humility (i.e., lowliness), we simply cannot be in right relationship to God or to each other. It is not just important…it is critical. It is a “lynch pin” of sorts to healthy relationships. And it is glaringly missing in many of the conflicted relationships with which I work.
I think I know why.
There is a double standard by which you and I live our lives. It is a profoundly unfair standard, but it is part of the human condition. You and I tend to judge ourselves based on what is in our heart, irrespective of our conduct; but we tend to judge others strictly by their conduct, irrespective of what is in their heart. In other words, we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but not so much others.
For example: it doesn’t really bother me that I have not achieved many of the dreams I once had for myself, because I know I could have achieved them, if I had only tried harder. That’s o.k. with me. I know I could have achieved them, and that is enough for me. But you might look at me and think otherwise. All you know is that I did not achieve those things. While I judge myself based upon what I am capable of doing, you more likely would judge me based upon what I have done.
Do you see the double standard? Because of this, it becomes difficult to think of you more highly than I think of myself. I see myself as a winner. I see you as…well, you get the picture. The human condition itself operates against any form of humility or lowliness, at least in our interpersonal relationships with each other. Our “flesh” is self-centered, selfish and arrogant.
And so, I must take on humility in order to preserve the relationships in my life. But from where does humility come? I suppose there are two kinds: (1) the kind I can fabricate in myself, and (2) the kind which only the Spirit of God can produce in me. I’ll save the distinction for a later post. For now, let me just leave you with a couple of questions. First, which kind do you suppose is the most meaningful kind of humility? And second, which kind of humility do you exhibit in your own Christian relationships?
© Blake Coffee
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