Making community work: Humility

‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4:1-3) Integral to healthy relationships, selfless service and resolved conflict is humility. ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 4:6)

And pride is a fragile thing. Its fragile because its false. We want an estimation of ourselves that doesn’t fit the facts. We want to think of ourselves as good people when in fact we’re deeply infected with sin. Because pride is so fragile it needs constant reinforcement.

  1. We look for affirmation. We act towards others not out of selfless love, but out of a self-serving desire for their regard.
  2. We delight in others’ failures because they bolster our standing.
  3. We patronise = pride dressed up as compassion. Patronizing is what we do when we think we’re better than someone, but we know we should treat them with humility.

Imagine a church where everyone is trying to prove themselves or wants to be admired. Even if you don’t feel proud now, you’d like to reach the point where you could be proud! If that’s what you’re like, you’ll never serve God and you’ll never serve other people. All your actions will be self-serving. Their aim will be to make you well regarded.

Humility cannot be achieved! So what can we do? The great English Puritan John Owen may help us. He said: ‘There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men, and they are, first, a due consideration of God, and then of themselves – of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition.’ We look at ourselves through the prism of God’s glory, seeing ourselves as unworthy servants of a great King. We look at other people through the prism of Christ’s cross, seeing ourselves as sinners saved by grace pointing other sinners to the fountain of grace. Humility cannot be ‘achieved’. But the cross humbles us.

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6 thoughts on “Making community work: Humility

  1. I enjoyed the post and the reflections on the importance of humility. Your statement that humility cannot be achieved reminded me of a story about the child who was given the humility award badge in Sunday School. Of course, they took it away from him when he wore it to church the following week.

  2. Hi Tim. Thanks for your books and blogs, my wife and I really appreciate them.
    How can a person effect change in a church (to make it more gospel centered) without becoming proud and going about it in an arrogant way?

    I realise that effecting change and being humble
    aren’t mutually exclusive but often in practice they seem to be.
    Would appreciate your input (and anyone else who has experience of this)

  3. Sorry for an off-topic question, but I couldn’t find a contact e-mail or relevant post that had open comments.

    I’m a student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and have previously served in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and am now involved with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). My interest is in church planting and I would like to learn more about the model of ministry you propose.

    What would you say is essential reading? What churches and organizations would you say are best implementing this essential reading?

    I know you’re busy, so I thank you for even considering responding.

    Cheers, Jesse

  4. Hi Jesse, we actually don’t really espouse a ‘model’ as if there were some definitive way of doing church or church planting. Indeed within our network there are churches with different structures. But we do espouse some principles which we believe arise from the biblical narrative. I suggest you look at our website – and our book Total Church. And you can look at the first four videos here. Tim

  5. Dan- I think it’s by keeping the very thing that we are wanting to make central – ie the gospel central to not only the church but to our own lives as well.

    Doing exactly what John Owen and Tim say. “two things that are suited to humble the souls of men…” etc

    I’m not sure what your context is.. but we live deeply aware of our sin and God’s glorious undeserving grace.. and out of that place we share our lives with our church, we exhort, disciple, rebuke, serve these people who are just like us.

    And because we know the gospel we know so well that we are nothing in ourselves and everything that we achieve is only God achieving it through his grace to us.

  6. Pingback: Making community work: the centrality of the cross « Tim Chester

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