Our culture despises humility as a character trait. It is interesting that while we despise humility, we also admire it. You just have to consume a small sampling of current media before you encounter this attitude against humility. We see it in the political arena, on the sports field and even on the silver screen. We hear it repeated in the counselling that you need to “love yourself first” and in the emphasis of not being taken advantage of in life. Yet isn’t it interesting that one of the chief characteristics of Jesus was his humility. It is also a Biblical mandate of his followers too!
I have been pondering the importance of humility for the follower of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Corinth about the difference in his approach to life in contrast with the false teachers attempting to steer them away from the Gospel. It is in 2 Corinthains 10 that the Apostle writes, “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”
His statement is a response to criticism raised against him by these false teachers. It was simply, in today’s thinking, he was bold behind a keyboard and a screen but humble in person. If you are interested in unpacking this passage you can check out the sermon. His critics comments are a testimony to Paul’s attitude when with them. Paul credits two-character qualities to Jesus himself, meekness and gentleness.
These two-character qualities would have been just as foreign to the Greco Roman culture of Corinth as it is in American culture today. Meekness refers to a gentle and mild disposition, this is a person that is levelheaded. Gentleness communicates that idea of having compassion or more properly understanding towards others. Paul approaches this attack with these to attitudes and communicated by the verb “entreat.” It is worth noting that he is not attacking those that have attacked him. Rather the word carries the idea “to ask or request earnestly.”
Now why would I want humility in a culture that would prefer to avoid it. There are many benefits to humility but let’s talk about two. First, it is the foundation for strong relationships. Think about this, most conflict results when the expectations of another are not met. The lack of humility, pride, is the fuel that flames a spark into a forest fire. We have all been there, we say something or act a certain way because our expectations were not met and the other person responds in kind. The vicious cycle continues until the relationship is burned to the ground. Humility on the other hand is like a fire extinguisher that puts out the fire first. The Bible is clear on this, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Let me encourage you to try it in your next “discussion.” You can do this by acknowledging the other persons frustration or even admitting your fault. You will be surprised at how quickly your response douses the fire of conflict.
Second, as referred in the term gentleness used by Paul, humility helps us to attempt to get into the other person’s proverbial shoes. All too often our lack of humility, pride, limits us to one viewpoint on the situation, our own. It is amazing what happens when you take the time to consider why the others person may have responded or acted in a certain way. Humility also prevents us from jumping to a conclusion before I have all the facts. Proverbs again provides wisdom when faced with conflict, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17)
These are only two reasons why I want humility in my life. It provides a path for resolving conflict in a way that brings both parties to the table and allows them to communicate. I would add one thing in closing, it also helps to “entreat” others before we accuse!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson