how humble, the prideful man
Humility. We seem to hear that a lot in our Christian circles.
What is humility? No one seems to know.
While I was growing up, there were two families in my church which exhibited a sort of prideful humility, under the guise of being humble about their amazing humility. Try dissecting THAT one.
One thing I remember vividly was this one daughter of theirs that I would play with. I would go so far as to say I never liked her. I just desperately wanted friends. As a homeschooled introvert, I kind of only had what I had…these two families in our church. Every time she and I spent time together, whether it was one on one or around others, she had an uncanny ability to make me feel incredibly stupid and dense. I always left her company feeling a little smaller than when I entered into it. And I feel this is a very accurate representation of her, her family, and the culture they forced upon my precious church. There was always a mandatory sentence to be spoken around and among them: “During my BIBLE TIME today…” insert something which makes the hearer feel like they are hell bound for not having had the same revelation. I always thought it was odd that despite the fact I was a Christian, I did not like them or hearing about their precious bible times. I read about unity in the Bible, and yet I did not feel it with these super holy people. For years, I believed this meant I was a bad Christian. I began developing (even more) serious depression about my assurance, and I had consistent nightmares of going to hell. My mental health rapidly declined to the point where, twice in my life, I lost all control over my mind, sleep, and sometimes body. I like to characterize these two episodes as borderline schizophrenic oppressions, but I actually believe they were spiritually induced. The waking nightmares, the suicidal tendencies, all of it pointed to what I would call demonic attacks. These attacks would last for months at a time, depriving me of sleep because of nightmares and giving me waking visions of the goriest content. And what was I going to say? For I was not holy. I was obviously not saved, because why else would these things be happening to me? I developed a severe disassociation between my reality and the reality I saw around me, perpetuated by these families. “Pain happens to Christians and heathens who are disobeying God.” “Pride goes before the fall; obviously you have fallen.” “You are a bad influence on young children.” And the list goes on and on. For I was not humble. I was not truly self-abasing (although if I had told them I was suicidal, they would cry pride). I was sinful; a leper. I was put out of the camp, emotionally, quite often. I would speak up against wrong thinking because often I felt I had no choice but to do so (this is also called the Spirit working in us). And these people, these humble and holy people, drove me away from their white-washed tombs into what they hoped was outer darkness.
What does all this have to do with humility? I would say it has everything to do with humility. No one would listen to someone forcing rules and regulations upon them in a sinister and menacing way…UNLESS that person promised success as the end goal and hid their motives in shrouds of righteousness. And because these people surrounded their decaying doctrines with thick layers of fat humility, no one was the wiser. They became mentors to new church members, their one-liners of righteousness were oft-repeated in our church, and their houses repeatedly hosted meetings of God’s people. What made all of this possible regardless of their sinister intent? Their humility. For true Christians do love humility, but humility can be a code word for naïve and incredibly gullible if they do not know what true humility is. And wolves in sheep’s clothing will gobble up these little children because of their pursuit of humility.
How do we learn what true humility is? It is easy to say “Look at the Bible,” however one must have eyes of faith to truly understand its contents. That is why we must be very, very careful when someone attempts to impress upon us a definition of something in the Bible. Man-made traditions brought about the Roman Catholic Church and the Dark Ages, which in turn led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Christians. Therefore, we must test the spirits, yes? But when people like this take hold, they tell us testing the spirits is prideful, arrogant, and rebellious. It is not humble; you must be humble! Why this fascination with humility?? They want pliable followers. They want people who are so afraid of pride that they will ignore the instructions of Scripture in favor of listening to their oh so humble masters.
It is interesting to note that in Galatians 5, humility is not listed as a fruit of the spirit. And yet, in Micah 6 we see that the Lord requires nothing of us but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Because the Bible does not contradict itself, and a house divided against itself cannot stand, these two definitions must mesh together somehow. I would propose that the fruits of the Spirit result in humility. Let’s take a look: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I would argue that humility is a way of life, not an attitude. For we are taught to follow Christ’s example, and yet this is the Christ who drove people out of His temple with a whip. But this is also the Christ who healed the sick and gave comfort to the hurting. We see here faithfulness to Himself and His Father, kindness to the suffering, and gentleness with the wounded. And Christ was humble. He is our blueprint. And yet these wolves would have us believe that humility is some sort of mask we are to wear so as to hide our true sinful selves. Instead, humility is something we must let permeate our souls and change us. So, with this definition, how do we apply it?
The other day, in the course of my lunch break, I was crossing a road. I found myself needing to look down frequently so as not to step on a crack or into a pothole. I did this because I was very aware of the fragility of my ankles and the reality of the potholes. I had previously experienced almost rolling my ankles when I did not take heed to the ground I was treading on. I believe practical applications are part of the common-sense God gifts us with, so how can we apply this? Well, I would argue that humility as a lifestyle is realizing several things:
1. In my walk in this world, there are potholes
2. I need to take care not to stumble
3. In order not to stumble, I need to watch myself
4. I also admit I cannot see all the potholes, and I trust the Lord to carry me safely over them or through them
5. I will occasionally roll my ankles, but I will repent and watch closer next time.
I know this is simplified, and it may not help everyone. But for me, it helped to have a realistic representation of what humility as a lifestyle and mindset does for a Christian. In contrast, this is what I have seen pride do:
1. In my walk, there will be no potholes
2. My ankles are too precious to ever encounter a pothole
3. If I encounter a pothole, I will pretend I never saw it coming and it caused my poor ankles to roll (which is no fault of mine)
4. After dealing with a pothole, I will not reassess my walk because I am above that
5. I will take care to convince people that after I have dealt with a pothole, I will look so carefully that I will never hit one again
6. I do not look where I am walking and I hit another pothole; my poor precious ankles, why does this always happen to me when I am so faithful.
So, we see that humility can almost just be implemented as godly self-awareness. Awareness of our frailty, awareness of the Devil’s power, awareness of our sin, care to avoid temptation, and yet belief in God’s faithfulness when we do inevitably stumble.
I hope this helped.