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HUMBLE PIE, ANYONE?

“Who being in very nature God . . . made Himself nothing . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2)

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“It is so amazing to see how quickly pride in one person can quench the spirit of others (even multitudes are ultimately affected and influenced). How my heart aches for God’s glory to manifested — and it will be — as we walk in humility towards one another – where ever we are!” – Jayne Otterson

“What does it mean to die to self? To want to prove a point by force, or by humbling oneself to the point of hugging the individual, and remembering where one came from?” – Tommy Donahue

Response to Tommy: “Humble enough to hold others higher than ourselves. Humble enough to kneel down and wash another’s feet. Humble enough to die to our own pride and love another beyond our own self. Christ in us has already done it all. Dying to self, laying down our lives for others means laying down our soulish life. And we can only do what He does in and through us — we cannot not even die without Him. How humbling is that?” – Kat Huff

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I’ve been feeling a need to speak about humility for the past few months. Recently this subject has popped up on Facebook (see the above posts). Humility is a tough topic to broach. You would be very skeptical if you saw a conference advertised with the pitch – “Excelling in Humility & How I Attained It!”

Christ incarnated humility by “leaving it all” and entering earth’s sin-infected space and time. His humility reached its fullest expression in the darkness of Golgotha – humiliated by taking the curse connected to hanging on a tree (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:22-23).

This Lord Jesus now dwells in us. Believers can, therefore, as Paul noted, “be clothed in humility.” To “clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ” is to be likewise dressed in humility (Rom. 13:14).

But it must be underscored that humility will only be deepened in us to the degree that we follow Christ’s pattern. For humility to blossom in our beings we must be daily acquainted with His cross. Proud persons know very little of the cross-life.

Jesus intends for His life to be expressed in the Body of Christ on earth through face-to-face relationships. It must be stressed that social media like Facebook cannot function as ekklesia. No doubt social media can be helpful to those in a wilderness season, and for communicating with those already in organic relationships. But the fact of the matter is that exchanging e-words with people you have never met is not community as it is unfolded in the New Testament. Smiley faces and other symbols are very dim shadows of the real-life together among believers that Paul saw come to expression in the first century.

Perhaps understanding that the e-world can function quite well without living relationships helps us appreciate why humility is so scarce, and why pride often surfaces in the endless posting on the internet.

When I was substituting in a public high school recently, I saw a poster on the wall. It should be of interest to us that in light of the bullying, etc., that has occurred on the Internet, a program has emerged in which students are asked to “Pause Before You Post” (PBP). They are encouraged to make these commitments:

Before I make a post, I pledge to ask myself:
Who will be able to see what I post?
Will anyone be embarrassed or hurt by it?
Am I proud of what I’m posting?
How I would feel if someone posted it about me?
(http://www.jostens.com/student/students_cp_pause_before_you_post.html)

Those who converse with others through social media would do well to think on those basic points. We all need to PBP!

May I offer some fruit that will appear when the humility of Christ is present? I think all of us would do well to carefully consider these perspectives as we communicate with others, and react to things people say to us in the e-world.

**People filled with Christ will speak to others in a way that they would want others to speak to them.

**People with the living waters of Christ flowing from their innermost being will speak words that bring healing not hurt. “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Proverbs 10:21).

**Saints will be increasingly conscious that when they speak to believers they are in a real sense speaking to Jesus. Christ told Paul that when he was messing with His followers, he was messing with Him (Acts 9:4).

**When you read something that concerns, bothers, upsets or troubles you, make sure you understand what the other person meant and intended instead of retorting quickly with a combative response. Ask them a question like, “In these comments you made, am I correct in understanding you to mean this?” Make an inquiry instead of pouncing on someone’s remarks. Explore the other’s heart instead of assuming that you understand their position.

**True humility will not pigeonhole and label people. It is very frustrating to see arbitrary labels pinned on others, when those being so categorized are scratching their heads in disbelief.

**I think one of the most common violations of humility occurs when people say things about others publicly that they would never say to their face. And there are certainly occasions where a person should go directly to another with their concerns, and keep them out of the public arena.

**The humility of Christ will lead a person to be open to learn from many sources. Consider what is reported about Apollos in Acts 18. Here was a brother who was eloquent and savvy in the Scriptures. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him in the synagogue, they saw that his understanding was deficient. They invited him to their home and Priscilla and Aquila “explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Here’s a guy that knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards, but he possessed a humility that was open to learn from a wife (who was listed first) and her husband.

**Humility will lead a person to trust the Spirit to work in hearts, not in their argumentation. “For the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he/she must be kind to everyone . . . . Those who oppose he/she must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance . . .” (2 Tim. 2:25).

I leave you with some quotations from Thomas Dubay. Caring: A Biblical Theology of Community is one of the most profound books I have ever read. I would ask that you bring these words from Caring to Father, and ask Him to reveal some of their implications for how you communicate with and respond to others.

“The initial task the members of the group should face is the exploration of one another’s minds . . . . Evaluation is a later step, not the first one. Initially we should concentrate on understanding why the member is saying this, on exploring his/her mind.”

“When a person refers to a position he does not share, he should make a conscious effort to represent that opinion fairly.”

“Most of us easily assume that we listen to others. Perhaps. But perhaps not. We hear all the words and sentences, but whether we heed is another matter. Receiving sound waves from another human being requires only a normal hearing apparatus and a sufficiently wakeful state. Listening to that person is incomparably more complex. All of us, therefore, need to learn to listen.”

“We need to be humble, small in our own estimation. Finding the solution to a mathematical problem is possible without humility, but finding God’s will is impossible without this virtue.”

“We try to grow in awareness that the person sharing is important, even precious, ‘God’s beloved’ (Romans 1:7). We pay attention to important people. To the proud person others are not important, and so he is not inclined to take them that seriously. Even more, we value the opinions of those we love. If I do not really care what my brother/sister thinks, I had better doubt that I love my brother/sister.”

By Jon Zens

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:

Thomas Dubay, “Communication in Community,” Searching Together, 14:4, 1985. Available from ST, P. O. Box 548, St Croix Falls WI, 54024, $3.50 postpaid.

Frank Viola, “Being Offended By Others” http://frankviola.org/2012/03/07/forgottenbeatitude2/

Frank Viola, “The Art of Being A Jerk Online: 10 Sure Ways” http://frankviola.org/2012/02/16/beingajerkonline/

Jon Zens, “’Have You Heard . . .?’ The Plague of Gossip in the Body of Christ”
http://searchingtogether.org/articles/gossip.htm

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Comments

  1. There’s a lot of wisdom and good advice there brother. I was thinking as I read it that the word “humility” is another one of those words that means different things to different people. I suspect this article will get read in many different ways.
    On one hand all those things you suggest folks “do” sounds like more “doing” by me in my own strength and will… When I’m working my salvation out so that it is Christ Himself who expresses Himself through me, then it’s Reality. Pride is one of those area that all humans will deal with for their entire lives, and one of those areas that God constantly addresses in our lives by any number of means including “silence and desertion”… ie. we go through dry periods and don’t hear Him or it just doesn’t feel like He’s there at all. When things go well the pride rises up because we are doing so well and enjoying the life and gifts of our Lord, and it seems the Lord needs to remind us that we are nothing apart from Him. He humbles us, often by seeming to be silent or not there. I don’t know, Jon.. those suggestions you list are great when they’re produced by the Lord in us, but when they’re manufactured by the determination of our will “to be humble”, then it isn’t life at all.

    • Ron, thanks for your comments! I agree with you totally that it must be Him working in us. I included Kat’s observation that “We can’t even die without Him. How humbling is that?” I think I made it pretty clear in the beginning of the piece that it must be Christ coming to expression in us. As in many other cases, the New Testament will assign the Lord as the origin of something in us, but then turn right around and exhort us to pursue that something. In this case, obviously humility is a fruit of the Spirit — we can’t produce it in and of ourselves — and yet there are several exhortations in the NT for us to “humble ourselves.” The Gospel indicative (you have the Spirit) becomes the foundation for the Gospel imperative (now walk in step with the Spirit).

  2. Jon,

    This is an excellent post. I wish every believer would read it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anthony Kasper says:

    This comment is so important! “Most of us easily assume that we listen to others. Perhaps. But perhaps not. We hear all the words and sentences, but whether we heed is another matter. Receiving sound waves from another human being requires only a normal hearing apparatus and a sufficiently wakeful state. Listening to that person is incomparably more complex. All of us, therefore, need to learn to listen.”

    When I used to sell hearing aids one of the first things we learned was most people, no matter how bad their hearing seemed to be, could hear but not understand clearly. Hearing and listening are two very different things. Listening for me has meant to shut up and care about what the other person has to say even if it is wrong, even if it is hateful. Seems to me Jesus was a good listener. When the people said what they had to say then He gave an answer or may have asked them another question so He could listen again. Christ words today are still heard and listened to because He cared enough to listen to us as well.

    I want to learn to listen better to others so that I may hear Christ more.

    Good word brother, thanks

  4. Jim Puntney says:

    Pride is insidious, we all have and are to some degree infected with this ailment. As you stated Jon, the only antidote is the cross of Christ, unity is found there. When we gather there we see community, for we all are equal in the need of His grace and love. We all are equal in our common hope on Christ, we all are equal in our indebtedness to this marvelous, and magnificent friend of ours Jesus the Christ.

    Thank you Jon for your post.

  5. The following comment was made by John Garrott on a Facebook group:

    “I just joined this group in the hope of some good honest discussion and fellowship. So sad to see everyone abandoning ship. The same thing has happened in every other group I have been to. We just need to get on with what God is showing us and if another person has an axe to grind, let them get on with it until God gets through to them.”

    To me, this observation should serve to underscore the importance of the points I made in “Humble Pie, Anyone?” It would seem that it is too easy for us to be deflected from absolute satisfaction in Christ into agendas and topics that stir up the wrong things in us.

  6. SYBILJEAN says:

    “eat humble pie To come down off one’s high horse, swallow one’s pride, and submit to mortification and humiliation; to be forced to apologize and defer to others; to eat crow, to eat dirt, or to eat one’s words. In this expression, humble derives from the obsolete umbles ‘heart, liver, and entrails of the deer.’ Apparently these parts were considered leftovers suitable only for the huntsman and other servants. When the lord and his company feasted on venison, the others ate the umbles that had been made into a pie. Thus, “umble pie” was suggestive of poverty and lowly status. Since humble also connotes lowliness and subservience, the simple fact of confusion gave rise to eat humble pie, used as early as the beginning of the 19th century.” UMBLES ANYONE?! : ]

  7. Thanks so much for this, Jon. I think most of us seriously misunderstand humility. Perhaps William Law said it best: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” A regular ingredient of pride is a sense of accomplishment, and so it is really impossible to pursue humility and find it, for the sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey will destroy it. I love Kierkegaard’s “God always creates out of nothing, and so before he can use something he first reduces it to nothing.” It reminds me that the Ad nihilo is as much God’s prerogative as the Ex nihilo. We can no more engineer the work of the cross than we can fabricate the resurrection. Both the law that kills in Romans 7 and the Spirit that gives life in Romans 8 come from God. And so I suspect that true humility is impossible without some or other deep, painful and unanticipated disillusionment in one’s “life in this world”, and that includes our religious “wish dreams” (to use Bonhoeffer’s term). Thanks again, Jon. Your ministry is a blessing.

  8. Great article, Jon. I have been contemplating similar concepts in relation to Father’s House.

    Humility is the primary law of the Father’s House. Humility is the basis upon which His children and sons can know the presence and power of their Father, who is Almighty God.
    (Isaiah 57:15)

    God will readily dwell and reveal His power when the law of His House is observed and the true humility of Christ is allowed to govern in all things.

    As the work of the cross is effected by experience, the believer is brought into oneness with the humility of the exalted Lord of the House and begins a practical experience of the spiritual reality of the House of God.

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