The Pursuit of Humility

The greatest single element missing in the 2011 edition of the Church is the precious attribute of humility. It is the essential building block needed in constructing a character of obedience to and a love for Christ, as well as the people around us. Its glaring absence seems to cast a long, dark shadow of serious doubt on anything else we claim to personally believe, publicly witness, or practically carry out in our communities. The alter ego—the hideous Mr. Hyde—the dark side of humility is arrogant pride and sadly, the church is filled with enough of this to permanently choke the life out the 9.6 billion people presently living on this blue-green planet.

Humility for most of us is like catching a fistful of wind or a handful of water. Once we’re convinced we have achieved it we find it has vanished through our fingers. The reason is simple: humility is not something you add to your collection of achievements, rather it is a choice you make—moment by moment—in that painful process of dying to yourself. We enter this world selfish, self-centered, and self-consumed. All we think about as infants is what we want. Truth is, we could care less about the rest of the little Johnnies and Jennies scattered around us. If you doubt this, visit a nursery or pre-school and quietly observe the little human inhabitants that populate it. No one teaches us to grab for what we want or scream for that holy grail of someone’s personal attention—we are born with that defective DNA. It’s a gift from the original inhabitants of the Garden. Sadly, we carry that with us as we mature emotionally, as well as spiritually. This terrible tendency does not miraculously evaporate just because Christ comes to live in us. We have to kill it; and believe me, its death will be a bloody one.

Humility is hard to define, but we all know it when we see it. Its presence refreshes us like water on the parched lips of a thirsty soul. Its encouragement pushes us to reach for more than we ever thought possible. Its validation empowers us to be everything God intended. Humility has a way of bringing forth the best of what we were created to be. It is a catalyst for real life—the quality and nature of that life Jesus died and arose to impart to us.

No man or woman is more like Jesus than in those moments when humility guides their actions and attitudes. It is cultivated, not acquired, through the seasons of our life as we willingly exchange what we desperately crave for what Jesus longs to give. As we surrender those areas of our will to His will, His kingdom comes in our lives and humility takes root and produces the sweet fruit of selfless service. Selfless simply means less of me and more of Him.

Perhaps that is the ultimate definition of humility—“me” dies and He lives in and through me. Perhaps it would do us all good to remember that if we confess Christ as Savior and Lord, it means we were crucified with Christ. For me that means I died the day Christ came to live in me. The goal of crucifixion was death, and as far as I know, not one person ever climbed down from a cross. I no longer have a right to what I want or what I need. Rather, Christ is set free to do in and through me whatever He wills because I am dead and the dead offer no resistance.

A life marked by humility has an aroma that attracts both the dying and the desperate and offers a quality and quantity of life that can be found in no other place. To be a person of no reputation allows the reputation of the risen and living Lord to be lived out in a vibrancy of color that nothing else in creation can rival.

The first step to humility is the transfer of personal value. That is, everyone else must become more important than we think we are. That, my friend, is a bloody decision to embrace death. If you think not—just try it.