In Humility

It’s election season if you haven’t noticed. And if you haven’t noticed, that must mean you’ve been living without television, Facebook, or radio. The media is currently inundating us with coverage of the presidential race. Alongside of the upcoming election are the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and St. Paul. These have quickly become the spark of more political debate. Opinions, memes, and rants are exhaustingly rampant on my social media threads.  Every medium I can access is full of public discourse regarding these sad events. 

As I’ve watched the banter go back and forth, I’ve found myself feeling an uneasy tension. I certainly have my own political opinions. There’s a part of me that desires to engage in robust political debate. I also have strong convictions regarding the events surrounding Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas and Baton Rouge police officer shootings. I believe that it is good to engage in healthy discussions surrounding these matters, and It is always right to stand up for what we know to be true and just (though I’m not sure that Facebook is the most effective platform to do so, but I digress). We live in a nation where we are afforded the right to participate in the political process. Not only can we vote, we can campaign. We can lobby. We can even peacefully protest. We can get involved and seek change, and to all of this I say, “Yes. Amen! Use your voice. Get involved!”

As Christians though, we need to be considerate about how we go about voicing our opinions. We must make sure that our rights as American citizens and our political convictions and alignments do not take precedence over our allegiance to the family of God. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20) and our primary concern is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). As members of Jesus’s body we belong to one another and have been called to love each other the way Christ has loved us (John 13:34). 


The body of Christ is not monolithic. It is a dynamic, diverse mosaic of individuals who come from many different backgrounds and experiences.


The body of Christ is not monolithic. It is a dynamic, diverse mosaic of individuals who come from many different backgrounds and experiences. As a result, Christians often disagree with one another over political matters. Believe it or not, someone can vote differently than you and still be a faithful follower of Jesus! Two believers can have different perspectives based upon their unique personal experiences, upbringings, and cultural distinctives, yet both can be committed disciples of Christ. Because this is so, we need to be thoughtful about the way we choose to engage in the current conversations.

The apostle Paul exhorts believers,

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Do nothing…Let’s pause there. That’s a strong statement. Paul is drawing a line in the sand. He commands us not to do one single thing…from rivalry. The word translated “rivalry” is the word epitheia (ἐριθεία). Some translations render it as “selfish ambition”. It conveys the idea of self-interest or selfishness. Paul is telling the Philippian believers to do nothing out of self-interest; to let none of their actions be selfishly motivated. Not even one.  

Then Paul adds the word kenodoxian (κενοδοξίαν), translated “conceit.” Some versions of Scripture render that word as “vain glory.” Paul is saying, don’t let your actions be motivated by pride or any sense of personal superiority. Don’t think that you are more important than your brother, or consider your opinions better than your sister’s.  Rather…

IN HUMILITY COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELVES. 

Instead of selfish ambition driving your actions, be driven by your brother’s well-being. Place him in the seat of honor, at the head of the table. Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to “outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10).  Literally, we should “one-up” each other in bestowing respect. We should make a contest out of giving one another esteem and favor. 

Let’s apply that to the topic at hand. What if we engaged in politics in way that placed others in the seat of importance? What if we considered how taxes and laws impacted more than ourselves?  What if we voted for who we thought would benefit our sister in Christ the most?! Paul tells us to do exactly that: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

What if we discussed hot-button issues with a consideration of how our brother might be feeling? Of how current events could possibly be affecting him? Of how his experiences have shaped his worldview? Before we take to hash-tagging, we should stop and ask ourselves, What is my motivation for saying/typing this? Is this a self-serving opinion? Is pride the driving force behind my comment? Is self-interest what is leading me to hold this view? Or, am I motivated by love for my brother? Am I engaging this topic/discussion in a way that is counting others more significant than myself?

Church, let’s decide right now not to engage in discussions with any inkling of selfishness or superiority. Let's count others' opinions more significant than our own. Let's consider others' feelings in the way we talk, debate, and engage in politics. 

The key to this happening is that one phrase Paul uses, “in humility.” We need humility. We are naturally self-absorbed people. We instinctively look out for "Number One," but for us to truly love our brother the way Paul calls us to love him, that pride in us must die. So what is the antidote to our self-absorption? How can we become humble people? Ironically, we don’t combat humility by belittling ourselves; that actually turns us inward and makes us morbidly self-absorbed. The trick to becoming humble is to lose sight of ourselves. Tim Keller says that humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less (often). To the extent that we become self-forgetful people we will be enabled to count others more significant than ourselves. 


The way we grow in humility is by fixing our eyes on Jesus and saying with John the Baptist, “He must increase. I must decrease.” ...It is as you are lost-in-gaze upon Christ that the grip of pride will loosen and you will be set free to love your brother. 


The way we grow in humility is by fixing our eyes on Jesus and saying with John the Baptist, “He must increase. I must decrease.”  Robert Murray McCheyne famously said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Consider how Jesus did nothing from rivalry or conceit but for his entire life considered others more significant than himself. Consider how he, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. It is as you are lost-in-gaze upon Christ that the grip of pride will loosen and you will be set free to love your brother.  The gospel is the pathway to humility. It is what can reconcile people of vast differences together and enable them to love, honor, and listen to one another. When that begins to happen, the tone of our discussions will be markedly different, and the world will take notice. What will make Christianity compelling to a vain world lost in selfish ambition is not a Church that demands political uniformity, but a Church of humble unity amidst a diversity of persepctives. 

 

 

From Pastor Andy