Humility: The Source Of True Joy In This Christian Life

In Chapter 5 of First Peter, we see some of Peter’s very clear instructions to the community of believers. These instructions remain as valuable and true today as they were at the time of Peter. The truth behind them remains the same, unchanged, and sure.

Peter first instructs the Presbyters of the community, those who have been entrusted with the office of pastoral leadership, of leading the people, caring for them by being good examples for them in the Christian life. They are to carry out their duties willingly, as God would have them do it, not with arrogance, or abuses of power. In other words, the are not to “lord it over” those in their care, but to care for them with and abiding love, as Christ did. If they do so, Christ will reward them with a “crown of glory.”

Then, Peter addresses the young people of the community. And the first thing he tells them is often the most difficult thing for the young (or many of us) to hear. He tells them to be humble. There’s that eternal virtue again. Humility is, in reality, the source of all the rest of the virtues. It is never easy for the young (or many of us) to hear this for they are often filled with the new and natural pride that comes from being recognized for their growing accomplishments. There is great pleasure in receiving awards and rewards of all kinds. These recognitions, awards, and rewards, are a real source of happiness for all of us, that is, until we fall into the problem of seeing them as the “only” source of happiness. When this happens we find ourselves caught up in the destructive whirlwinds of the “competition game,” or the “comparison game.” In the competition game we do whatever is necessary to keep on top, to be number one, because there are always others who wish to take our place. In the comparison game we compare ourselves as better than, or not as good as, others. In the former, we can fall into the habit of treating all others as less than ourselves. In the latter, we become riven with jealousy, anger, or bitterness. There can be no community, much less, Christian community, in this kind of behavior. This lack of humility, and the suffering that is the terrible consequence of it, is all too recognizable in society.

Most people are caught in the morass of these games. They were in Peter’s time and we still are today. But these are not the qualities of a Christian community, nor can they ever be. Humility is the antidote to these games we play when we are caught up in the things and the pleasures of the world. Humility is the strength that lifts us above these finite and troublesome problems that are rooted in the ego. To love as Jesus loved requires humility. It is the binding force of all good and healthy relationships. It is not until we are able to see the wisdom of “[Humbling ourselves] under the mighty hand of God” that we find the infinite, caring, loving grace of God casting away all of our anxieties. Humility, then, is the source of all the joy that belongs to a truly Christian community.

Lord, teach us your ways. Give us the wisdom of humility in all that we say and do. For, truly, we are nothing without you. Help us to know this holy humility in the depths of our hearts and to live it. It is the strength that comes from our humble submission to your loving will that binds the truly Christian community together in your name. We pray these things believing in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.