Activated - - NEWS - By Peter Am­s­ter­dam


the Greeks and Ro­mans, hu­mil­ity was seen as a neg­a­tive trait. It de­noted a sub­servient at­ti­tude on the part of some­one con­sid­ered to be of a lower class. It was seen as a cowed at­ti­tude, one of self-be­lit­tle­ment or degra­da­tion. The honor-shame cul­ture of that time ex­alted pride, and hu­mil­ity was seen as un­de­sir­able. Je­sus, how­ever, re­de­fined hu­mil­ity. He, the Son of God, hum­bled Him­self by be­com­ing hu­man; thus show­ing that it was some­thing be­liev­ers should em­u­late. Through His teach­ings and ex­am­ple, His fol­low­ers in the early church learned to treat hu­mil­ity as a virtue, an im­por­tant moral at­ti­tude, and a fun­da­men­tal trait of Chris­tian char­ac­ter.

Je­sus both preached and lived hu­mil­ity:

For who is the greater, one who re­clines at ta­ble or one who serves? Is it not the one who re­clines at ta­ble? But I am among you as the one who serves. 1 Who­ever ex­alts him­self will be hum­bled, and who­ever hum­bles him­self will be ex­alted.2

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gen­tle and

lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 3

A Chris­tian un­der­stand­ing of hu­mil­ity is based on our re­la­tion­ship with God. In their book Char­ac­ter Makeover, Brazel­ton and Leith pro­vide a def­i­ni­tion of hu­mil­ity from a Chris­tian per­spec­tive, as fol­lows: Hu­mil­ity is a nat­u­ral re­sult of hav­ing an ac­cu­rate view of who

God is and hav­ing a right per­spec­tive of who you are in re­la­tion to Him. 4

And who are we to God? We're His way­ward chil­dren—bro­ken, sin­ful, and un­able to at­tain full right­eous­ness be­fore Him. Yet de­spite our bro­ken­ness, He loves us un­con­di­tion­ally. As sin­ners, we can't claim His love, but He freely gives it to us any­way. He sent His Son to die for us be­cause of His deep love for us. It's hum­bling to know that we are loved re­gard­less of our sins. This helps us feel se­cure in our re­la­tion­ship with our Cre­ator. God's love and ac­cep­tance is the ba­sis of our self-worth.

Be­cause we are un­con­di­tion­ally loved by God, we can be hon­est with Him and our­selves about our strengths and weak­nesses, since nei­ther will change God's love for us. He doesn't love us more be­cause of our tal­ents, nor does He love us less be­cause of our weak­nesses. Know­ing that we are ac­cepted by God makes it eas­ier to have a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of our­selves.

Sec­u­lar and pop­u­lar def­i­ni­tions of hu­mil­ity gen­er­ally in­clude traits such as low self-es­teem, lack of con­fi­dence, or be­ing a door­mat, but that's not the hu­mil­ity Je­sus taught. As Randy Frazee wrote: A be­liever has a strong sense of self-worth and a se­cure po­si­tion of iden­tity as one who no longer feels the need to el­e­vate the flesh or pump up per­sonal pride. 5

Know­ing we're loved by God al­lows us to have a strong sense of self-es­teem and be able to wear our self-worth lightly, with hu­mil­ity, be­cause we are se­cure in God and His un­con­di­tional love for us. Be­ing se­cure in God's love, we rec­og­nize that there is no rea­son to try to ex­alt our­selves in His eyes or in the eyes of oth­ers.

As in­di­vid­u­als cre­ated in God's im­age and uniquely loved by God, we can have full con­fi­dence in our per­sonal worth. We can can­didly rec­og­nize and ac­knowl­edge both our strengths and weak­nesses, our tal­ents and neg­a­tive habits. We should strive to have a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of our­selves, with­out think­ing that we're ei­ther won­der­ful or aw­ful. We shouldn't lift our­selves up in pride, nor con­sider our­selves worth­less. Ei­ther ex­treme— feel­ing that ev­ery­one is bet­ter than us, or that we are bet­ter than ev­ery­one else—is wrong. Hu­mil­ity lies in rec­og­niz­ing that we are valu­able to God, that He loves us, made us, and has given us gifts and tal­ents, while also not think­ing that it's all about us, that we are bet­ter and more gifted than oth­ers. As Rick War­ren said, Hu­mil­ity is not think­ing less of your­self, it's think­ing of your­self less.

6 Au­thor Todd Wil­son wrote: Hu­mil­ity isn't meant to make you think less of who you are, but to en­able you to love oth­ers re­gard­less of who they are. Hu­mil­ity is how love ex­presses it­self to­ward those of a dif­fer­ent sta­tus, rank, or po­si­tion. It's the ca­pac­ity to view ev­ery­one as ul­ti­mately equal. This doesn't mean deny­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween peo­ple. But it does mean look­ing past those dif­fer­ences to the un­der­ly­ing equal­ity of all peo­ple. There are two im­por­tant senses in which we are all equal—as crea­tures made in God's im­age, and as fallen crea­tures in need of God's grace. Th­ese two facts, in turn, are the foun­da­tion for true hu­mil­ity, be­cause they rad­i­cally level the play­ing field. 7

If we're hum­ble, we rec­og­nize that we're sin­ners just like ev­ery­one else, and there­fore we don't feel more de­serv­ing of love or less re­spon­si­ble

to show love to oth­ers. Hu­mil­ity frees us from wor­ry­ing about pres­tige or po­si­tion, phys­i­cal fea­tures or at­trac­tive­ness, suc­cess or fail­ure, and many other anx­i­eties that come along with pride and mea­sur­ing our­selves against oth­ers.

The Bi­ble re­peat­edly ex­tols hu­mil­ity and tells of the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude God has to­ward the hum­ble. Scrip­ture also tells us that those who ex­alt them­selves will be hum­bled, but those who hum­ble them­selves will be ex­alted. 8

When writ­ing to the Philip­pi­ans, the apos­tle Paul spoke of Je­sus' hu­mil­ity:

Don't be self­ish; don't try to im­press oth­ers. Be hum­ble, think­ing of oth­ers as bet­ter than your­selves. Don't look out only for your own in­ter­ests, but take an in­ter­est in oth­ers, too. You must have the same at­ti­tude that Christ Je­sus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equal­ity with God as some­thing to cling to.

In­stead, he gave up his di­vine priv­i­leges; he took the hum­ble po­si­tion of a slave and was born as a hu­man be­ing.

When he ap­peared in hu­man form, he hum­bled him­self in obe­di­ence to God and died a crim­i­nal's death on a cross.

There­fore, God el­e­vated him to the place of high­est honor. 9

While Je­sus had the same in­her­ent char­ac­ter and qual­ity and equal “rank” or “sta­tus” with God, He set it aside and took on the na­ture of a ser­vant by be­com­ing hu­man. While He could have claimed power and glory, as was pointed out when the devil tempted Him in the desert, Je­sus in­stead chose to lower His

10 sta­tus and hum­bled Him­self to the point that He was will­ing to die the cruel, tor­tur­ous death of a com­mon crim­i­nal for our sakes. Be­cause of what He did, God “hy­per-ex­alted Him”—which is the lit­eral trans­la­tion of the last verse of this pas­sage.

While we aren't on the same plane as Je­sus, we can fol­low the prin­ci­ple of hu­mil­ity that we see in His ex­am­ple. Dur­ing His min­istry, Je­sus did many mighty works. He healed the sick, cast out de­mons, fed 5,000 peo­ple by mul­ti­ply­ing five loaves of bread and two fish, and walked on wa­ter. He told Pon­tius Pi­late that He could ask His Fa­ther to send twelve le­gions of an­gels to pro­tect Him—such was His abil­ity, power, and sta­tus. But in­stead, He hum­bled Him­self, lived His life in sub­mis­sion to His Fa­ther, and avoided the glory that many wanted to give Him.

If we want to be­come more like Him, then we will strive to “put on” hu­mil­ity; and if we do, we will find our­selves blessed by God: Clothe your­selves, all of you, with hu­mil­ity to­ward one an­other, for “God op­poses the proud but gives grace to the hum­ble.” Hum­ble your­selves, there­fore, un­der the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may ex­alt you. 11

Peter Am­s­ter­dam and his wife, Maria Fon­taine, are di­rec­tors of the Fam­ily In­ter­na­tional, a Chris­tian com­mu­nity of faith. Adapted from the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle. ■

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