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Humility before God: essential for all lasting reformation

Posted Nov 10, 2017

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Daily Scripture

1 Peter 5:1-6

1 Therefore, I have a request for the elders among you. (I ask this as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and as one who shares in the glory that is about to be revealed.) I urge the elders: 2 Like shepherds, tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don’t shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don’t shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly. 3 Don’t shepherd by ruling over those entrusted to your care, but become examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive an unfading crown of glory.

5 In the same way, I urge you who are younger: accept the authority of the elders. And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble.

6 Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s power so that he may raise you up in the last day.

Reflection Questions

Peter called on early Christian converts (and us) to find the freedom that comes from humility with each other and trust in God. Too often, we’re tempted (like many church reformers at some point in their life) to link the idea of “reform” with “We have to do everything my way.” But Peter said “no” to that idea. Relate to each other humbly, he wrote, and trust your anxieties to God.

  • Do you believe it is possible to act with confidence (in a church ministry or reform movement, your work, your family, or just your own life) out of humility rather than pride? What attitudes or actions does it take to make that a reality? How can mutual humility smooth dealings between followers and leaders, or between people on different sides of a difficult (but not central to the faith) issue?
  • James 3:13-15 named “bitter jealousy” and “selfish ambition” as being the reverse of the humility that comes from wisdom. Have you ever seen qualities like bitter jealousy or selfish ambition damage interactions between you and others, especially if you are dealing with a disagreement? How does humility guard your mind and heart from these hurtful ways of thinking?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, maybe I need a new mental “outfit.” Help me every day, in all my contacts, to clothe myself with humility toward the other people with whom I deal. Amen.

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Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology. She and her husband Rob have a son, a daughter, and a high energy dog. She loves writing, conversations over coffee, and teaching spiritual classes.

I once heard a story of a little boy approaching a rabbi with a big question. The story goes that the boy asked why he could not see the face of God from an airplane window. The rabbi responded that you have to go low to see God, not high. He went on to explain to the boy that the face of God is found when you kneel, bow down, and lower yourself to God.  

I think this story can teach us something about humility. Humbling before God by physically and spiritually lowering ourselves is surrendering to the power of God. It is an invitation from you to God, to the possibilities of partnership with God.  

My parents love to tell the stories of my “I-do-it-myself” stage during my second year of life. Apparently, I was determined not to let anyone help me do anything. One of their favorites to tell is when I was standing at the top of a long stairway, insisting upon carrying a heavy 1970’s booster seat down the steps by myself. My mom was trying to take it out of my hands to keep me safe, and as I stubbornly pulled it back away from her, I uttered the infamous words, “NO, I DO IT MYSELF!” And then I tumbled down the stairs holding the booster seat, cartwheeling down each step.  

There are still days when my lack of humility resembles that infamous day. I continue to think I can do it myself. I forget that God would love to carry the booster seat for me. God is standing beside me open-armed waiting for me to hand it over. Wanting to keep me safe from bad decisions. Waiting for me to look up with longing eyes asking for help, surrendering my will, humbly allowing God to take the lead.  

Sometimes it is hard to ask for help. It is hard to relinquish control. It is hard to admit that our way is not working. So, how do we humble ourselves to God and others?  

Pray more than plan. Listen more than talk. Contribute more than criticize. Invite more than exclude. Respect more than shame. Educate more than ignore.  

Dear God, I surrender my will to you. Show me who you would have me serve, where you would have me go, and what you would have me say. Use me as an instrument of your love and peace. Changing things in our world, nation, community, church, and in myself is possible, but I cannot do it alone. Show me the way. Amen.

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