Aspiring to Humility (Podcast Follow-Up)

We tend to think that humility is defined by what you don't do, the ability to not be prideful or vain. But biblical humility is an active posture, a deliberate action.

My next big takeaway from that conversation has to do with Steve’s reminder to try to live a humble life. So many times, when we hear someone talk about humility, it’s discussed in the negative. We tend to think that humility is something you don’t do, the ability to not be prideful or vain. But the way Steve talked about deliberately humbling ourselves before God and making an effort to turn humility into a primary characteristic of our lives.

This actually got me to pull a book off my shelves that I haven’t read in over a decade (The Naked Christian) and look up a passage that made a big impression on me when I first read it. In it, the author (Craig Borlase) is talking about the kinds of lives and stories we tend to glorify in our culture and in our churches—and contrasting it with a conversation he had with an anonymous friend:

I heard about an ambition recently. “I want to live a quiet life. To know God, to love him, to serve and follow.” That was it. No specifics, no action plan for saving the world. Nothing that would make it into the news. But it struck me as something wonderful…an ambition built to last. This is not a call to ditch the dreams of doing things for God, not a suggestion that we give up following him or taking brave steps to take the gospel message out. But it is a question mark over just how we think God does use us. … Are we so sure that God only works through people on the stage, in the public eye, and without failings? Isn’t there so much more to him than that?

In times like this, when we’re wading through so much dispiriting news, it’s important to remember that you’re not called to fix everything. There’s only one person who is going be called upon to make all things new, and it’s not you or me. Through prayer, we should ask to become more aware of what God is equipping us to do. And as we become aware of what we are capable of, we have to muster up the strength, the courage and the willingness to be inconvenienced that it takes to actually do those things. You might have to do things that involve going a little out of your way—organizing a drive to raise money for the families of shooting victims or people displaced by storms or fire. Or you might be called to make lots and lots of little small changes in your day-to-day life. Like, maybe the stories about powerful celebrities and politicians are helping you to realize you need to make changes to your own behavior.

But then we need to learn to be satisfied with just doing these things and not more.

These aren’t big, glamorous, world-changing acts. People aren’t gonna learn your name because of them. Your Facebook posts about them aren’t going to get screengrabbed and then re-shared by strangers. But things at this scale are also things I’m pretty sure most Christians are called to do with our time and our energy. And they affect the lives of our friends and neighbors in ways that are a lot more persistent and a lot more intimate than a lot of the big, world-changing acts our society usually tries to valorize.

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  • Rick Barry is Executive Director of Center for Christian Civics, where he helps ministry leaders and faith communities develop missional approaches to their local public squares. He has worked on campaigns for local, state and federal office, is a former writer and editor for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and oversaw communications for the Grace DC church network. He and his wife live in Washington, DC.

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