There is one vital ingredient if we are to have unity and peace: humility. We desperately need humility in our lives and in our congregations if we are to work for peace, and, if there is one congregation we can point to as needing humility above all else, that is the congregation at Corinth in the New Testament.
Here is a congregation where factions split behind various leaders and figureheads. Some promote celibacy while others live in sexual sin, calling it freedom in Christ. Some abuse the Lord’s Memorial. Those with spiritual gifts seem to vie for prominence and attention during worship, behaving disruptively to gain attention. There are even those who deny the resurrection.
Five times in his first letter to this book, Paul calls for humility: I Corinthians 4:6, chapter 4:18, chapter 4:19, chapter 5:2, and I Corinthians 13 then explains Christian love, a love that is not boastful but humble. The heart of Corinth’s problem is one of pride or arrogance. These are dangers Paul would reinforce with Timothy in I Timothy 3:6 and 6:4 as well as in II Timothy 3:1. Paul obviously sees humility as an essential ingredient in our Christian lives, especially if we are to live peacefully with one another and our God.
Pride and Separation
Pride and arrogance keeps us from our true selves. Proverbs 16:18 warns that pride leads to a fall. Why? Because we blind ourselves to our own limitations. Proverbs 14:16 warns against arrogant recklessness born of overconfidence. Galatians 6:3 tells us we deceive ourselves when we think we are better than we are. In short, we fail to see ourselves the way God sees us, and the way we measure ourselves differs from the way God measures us.
Pride also keeps us from one another. Galatians 6:2 calls on us to bear each other’s burdens. How can I do that if I’m too full of myself? Romans 12:3, after telling us to avoid conformity with this world and encouraging us to live sacrificially, begins an entire passage about service through humility. We should not esteem ourselves above our brethren. Verse 16 calls for harmony, asking us to put others first without conceit. I Peter 5:5 tells us to clothe ourselves in humility, and in Matthew 18:2-4, after the apostles had been arguing over who was the greatest, Jesus calls on His followers to have childlike humility if they would be great in God’s kingdom.
Finally, a lack of humility keeps us away from God. Proverbs 8:13 tells us God hates pride and arrogance. Chapter 21:4 calls haughtiness sin. James 4:10 tells us God lifts up the humble, and I Peter 5:5-6 says much the same thing, reminding us that God resists the proud. Think about the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5; in verse 3, Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who have been emptied of self. Once we empty ourselves of pride, we make room for God in our lives.
In Job 1:1, we are told Job was a perfect, upright man, and, in verse 8, God calls Job His servant. Chapter 2:3 repeats this assertion that Job is God’s humble servant, fearing God and turning from evil. Can God say the same about any of us? After chapter upon chapter of Job’s friends tearing him down, we come to Job 31:35 where Job declares His innocence before God. He becomes proud in God’s eyes, and God responds in chapter 38-39, putting Job in his place. Chapter 40:3-5 then records Job’s humbled response. Now, if righteous Job could not be prideful before God, how can we lift ourselves up in arrogance?
In humility, we can see ourselves as God sees us. Humility allows us to serve one another, and it is humility that will draw us nearer to God. As little children, we need to empty ourselves of self-interest and all arrogance, coming to him in meekness and humility so He will draw nearer to us.
lesson by Tim Smelser