Opportunities as We Exit Social Isolation Part 3
Opportunity for Humility
This is the third installment in five-part series on opportunities that Christians will have as we exit social isolation. The first article noted the unique chance that believers have to reveal their true citizenship—heaven, not America. You can access that article here. The second piece zeroed in on our opportunity to practice patience with one another. Each person/family will emerge from isolation at their own pace, for their own reasons. We will be forced to be patient with those whom we disagree with. You can access that article here.
This third segment looks at the prospect that believers will have to demonstrate humility towards one another during this time. Not surprisingly, God esteems what our culture disregards. Self-worth, self-priority, self-service, and self-assertion fly high on the banner of our cultural values. Such is not the case for the Lord. Throughout the Scriptures, God reveals his veneration of humility. James reminds us, “Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (Jas 4:6). He regards the lowly (Psa 138:6), giving honor to the humble (Prov 15:33). Jesus prioritized humility for his disciples in Matthew 23:11-12, saying, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Why We’ll Struggle
The emergence from social distancing offers unique challenges for the body of Christ to be humble. Knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1), and so does our perceived knowledge concerning this global pandemic. We will be tempted to think that our pace of emergence is due to our better handle on the pandemic. We may never say, but will be tempted to believe, that those who do not emerge as slowly as we, are foolhardy; or those who do not emerge as quickly as we, are naive. Subtly, an air of superiority will creep in.
The reality is that each person is wrestling through the same confusing data we all are subject to as finite human beings. We are all making judgment calls, weighing out the impact of our decision against our personal health, the public health, and the economic impact. That we might draw different conclusions does not necessarily mean that one or the other is misinformed. They might be working with a different framework and put in place a different set of priorities. Regrettably, this current pandemic fosters a growth in pride.
Who We Study
We are disciples—not just disciples, but disciples of Jesus Christ. This means that our teacher is Christ. As our teacher, we learn from his words—how he taught us to interpret the world, what he said about the Father, etc. But we learn not only from his words. True discipleship learns and imitates how he lived.
Paul points to this truth in Philippians 2:5-11. The Philippians struggled with humility. Their pride kept them from serving others and considering the needs of others over their own. So, he reminds them in 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Then, in verses 5-11 he puts on display the example of their Lord Jesus Christ for them to imitate. They were to be like the one they say they followed. He perfectly illustrated what it meant to put other’s needs before his own. He “made himself nothing” (v. 7) and “humbled himself” (v. 8) for selfish sinners. Think about that. We had let him down; we had sinned against him; we had foolish understandings of his creation; yet he served us. He put aside his own interests for others, even if these others didn’t deserve his service. willing to label his interests as lesser. If we follow him, we are to follow his example.
What’s at Stake
What is at stake in whether or not we are humble towards one another? Our lack of humility will clearly effect our personal relationships and unity with others in the body of Christ. That goes without saying. Church unity is important. Many of Paul’s letters address the importance of unity, and he confronts issues that led to disunity. But Paul points to something bigger in the Letter to Philippians. He provides us with a surprising answer to what is really at stake in our lack of humility: the advancement of the Gospel.
The Philippians’ deficiency of humility and lack of willingness to serve the interests of others had led to the disruption of the Gospel’s progress (see 1:27). The uncompromising stance of Euodia and Syntyche towards one another seemingly had effected the congregation’s ability to advance the Gospel. (Notice how Paul calls them ‘fellow-laborers’—a term that points to contributions of both finances and service.) The church’s lack of humility had hindered the advancement of the Gospel. Their pride disrupted the spiritual unity within the church halls, halting the progress of the Gospel outside of those walls.
Every local church’s unity is in danger as we exit isolation, but the greater casualty of the church’s lack of humility through this process will be the progress of the Gospel itself. The onlooking world will see a political and cultural climate within the church that mirrors the fallen world in which they swim. If we are different—if we are humble—then the power of Gospel will shine forth with great glory, and the city on a hill will shine clearly for all to see.