“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:1-6
There’s a clear-cut advantage to being humble, to avoiding the pitfalls of arrogance and hubris, and that is that no one can put you down. You’re a few steps ahead of anyone that tries: it’s a fantastic feeling to know that you can’t be tagged like that. The next time someone tries to get one over on you, tries to belittle you or sneer at you, consider what they’ve just said as though it came from a constructive place, not a contemptuous place. Then ask yourself how much of it could be considered to be true, and own up to that. Agree with them over that part; tell them you’ve taken it on board. Nothing takes the wind out of the sails of a bully like someone who won’t rise to their tactics.
That’s just a parlor trick, though. Real humility is about recognition of who we are, and of who Jesus is. Occasionally, we’ll find that we take ourselves too seriously. We start believing in ourselves a little too much; begin to strut a little too often. Other people recede in importance in our minds. We fall victim to our own smugness. Our arrogance becomes self-delusion. And when that happens, there will be no shortage of people there keen to take us down a peg or two. Some people delight in that.
If no one can put us down, we no longer feel the need to prove ourselves to others. It’s incredibly liberating, knowing that there will not be a need to be affronted, wounded or offended in casual conversation. In the rest of God, we allow anything detrimental to us to float past us. When we bring our humility to bear, we soften the hardest of hearts.
It’s when we begin to understand the truth of who Jesus is that we begin to understand true humility. For the first time, we begin to appreciate who He is for us, and the gulf that exists between who He is and who we are. The primary purpose of our lives, our reason for being, the whole point of being a Christian, is to become more like Christ: and when we see for the first time exactly how much work it’s going to take, arrogance simply stops becoming an option. It’s a sobering thing, to learn exactly how much we have to learn.
That’s the key. Humility is understanding that we are capable of wisdom…but we don’t know everything. It’s about believing that we are a prophetic people…but acknowledging that God doesn’t always tell us everything all at once. It’s about witnessing our power in the provision of the Father…but accepting that our power belongs to Christ in us, and not us ourselves. Furthermore, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, it’s within us to create something truly special…but even giving that, we are not the Creator. The flipside to that is that we know our limits…but give thanks that we are utterly unbounded in the Lord Jesus.
The fruit of the Spirit provides the template for true humility. After all, we’re encouraged to express love in the face of direct opposition. We’re a people moving in kindness and patience upon being confronted by the low, the cynical and the mean-spirited. When our name is cursed, we bless right back.
The other side to all of that is that we need to accept how astonishing we are too. Humility is about walking the high wire between overweening arrogance and unwanted condemnation. Self-deprecation is not the same thing as true humility. Far too often, the religions of today ask us to acknowledge our own lack of worth in the eyes of God. Well, that’s simply not how God sees things. That kind of advice is religiosity at its worst, a power play designed to allow someone to have a hook in us. God sees the extraordinary in us. He’s over the moon about it. To put ourselves down is to express contempt for His vision for our lives.
One of Christ’s names is Wonderful, and Christ is within us. Given those two facts, the cornerstones of our faith, what exactly does that make us? There is a special kind of wisdom in knowing that we are unique creatures, given gifts the like of which most citizens of the world will never experience: beloved of God. Accordingly we allow others to realize their identity as they see how we conduct ourselves.
The high wire act of humility allows us the sheer power to complete our rise into the high places of Heaven: but also allows us the wisdom to step away from arrogant modes of thought. In humility, we are no longer our own worst enemy. Our heart becomes guarded by the majesty and beauty of the Father, from whom our anointing stems. That anointing is a gift to us: it doesn’t provide us with carte blanche to strut around as though we were better.
Think on your recent experiences of embarrassment or fear in your life. Did you feel humbled? How did you respond, and what was the attitude that you put across, the lifestyle you projected? Cultivating humility is a gamechanging step towards the truly Christlike: walking that tightrope over the heads of those who don’t yet understand, performing a balancing act, a feat of emotional and spiritual dexterity that comes directly from Jesus within. It’s accepting gentleness, kindness and understanding as a way of life.