“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…” (Philippians 2:3)
Recently, I was meditating on the principle of “humility” in the Christian life. I realized that for me (and I suspect for many of us), the natural tendency, once I think I know something, is to clutch onto it for dear life. After all, I thought of it, didn’t I? So it must be true!!!
The “deadly sin” for which humility is the antidote is pride, which C. S. Lewis (in keeping with many of the Church Fathers) describes as the primeval sin, the sin of Lucifer. Small wonder that the Evil One is so skilled at tempting us mortals toward that tar pit. The frustrating characteristic of pride is that, no matter how advanced we may be in the Christian walk, that sin always lurks close at hand. We may achieve some degree of mastery over gluttony, envy, sloth, but pride? That is always but a stone’s throw away….
For us in covenant community, this dynamic is especially a danger. No question: God has richly blessed each of us with a deep, personal knowledge of Him, and ushered us into a community of believers that have experienced an encounter with the risen Jesus, have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a Christ-centered life, and have invested in life-giving relationships with one another. How easily we can develop a Pharisaical mindset and close ourselves off to the ongoing change that He wants to work in us.
I’ve found, on a personal level, that implementing the above passage wasn’t about trying to work up some “feeling” of inferiority. It didn’t work to go around thinking, “This person is better than me,” or “That person is better than me” – such constant comparisons rarely produced good fruit, since I usually ended up either feeling discouraged or puffed up! I tried a different approach, and took the mindset of a servant, seeking instead to truly value the other person, to take a genuine interest in whatever he was saying, to listen carefully and attentively, and to convey that, regardless of my own opinion, his perspective had value, and he himself was important. The adage I latched onto was “Humility consists not so much as thinking less of yourself, but simply thinking of yourself less.”
For many of us, the practice of the Examen that St. Ignatius promoted, along with regular confession, is a great help to recognize the fact that God is not finished with us yet. Like a loving father, He is always pleased with us – but never satisfied! There is always more that He wants for us as we move from one degree of glory to another. The cathedral is not yet finished!
However, I believe that this applies not only to our individual lives, but also to our corporate life. Some of the changes that have happened in our community over the past two years have been fairly obvious: remote attendance at gatherings, men’s and women’s group meetings via Zoom, cancellations or severe curtailments of events such as Camp Powell or our Convocation. But there are other changes that have happened – and undoubtedly more to come! This time can be seen as an opportunity for us to learn to accept all those changes with humility and gratitude, recognizing that God is ultimately directing us as a community to a position where we can fulfill our mission most effectively: to introduce as many as possible to an encounter with the Lord Jesus, to the power that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and to a life of ongoing radical discipleship within a vibrant covenant community.
As a coordinator in this community, I continually stand in awe of the sovereign work that God is about – and am constantly thrown to my knees in the realization that He holds me and my fellow leaders responsible for discerning His will in this regard. Personally, I’m grateful beyond words for the spiritual support and encouragement that community members offer us (see Covenant Agreement #9).
I pray that as we move through this holy season of Lent, God will prepare us to embrace ever more fully a commitment to a life of sacrificial service, supporting with our time, talents, and treasures the work of bringing salvation to a culture that is adrift: one soul at a time.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Hebrews 12:2)
Because of Him,