The Lost Discipline

Okay.  Blog vacation over.  I’m back.  I have been unbelievably busy for the past two weeks, but am now going to get back to my two-to-three blog a week schedule.  I’m sure you are all relieved…

I have tried in the past couple weeks to keep my thoughts to myself and to simply observe.  And here is what I have observed.  Of all the Christian disciplines and instructions of Jesus and Paul, one seems to be lost — hopefully not irrevocably.  That discipline is: humility.

Could Christians — or more specifically any one Christian — be wrong?  Has our “faith” become entrenched, incontestable, unapproachable dogma?  I have been privy to various “conversations” between Christians, and the one characteristic painfully absent has been any measure of humility.  What happened to not being haughty?  What happened to considering others better than ourselves?  What happened to the faintest trace of civility and kindness?  Oh, many couch their comments in acidic forms of tolerance, but real humility?  Not so much.

What’s up with Christians attacking other Christians for interpreting the Bible differently than they do?  What’s to be gained by insulting other Christians for their unique and individual Christologies?  What gives some Christians a level of assurance that gives them the right to attempt to humiliate other Christians who believe different things than they do?  Sorry, this isn’t a liberal/conservative thing, no matter how much you want to make it so.  This is how one flawed, imperfect human being treats other flawed, imperfect human beings kind of thing.  This is about core beliefs and practices.  This is about how Christians justify pettiness, judgmentalism, violence, narrow-mindedness, hate, hostility, prejudice, ugliness and ignorance as God-fearing virtues.  It makes me sick.

Ooooh, too harsh?  Sorry.  We are the body of Christ.  The evidence of our life in Christ is love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience. Kindness.  Generosity. Faithfulness.  Generosity.  Self-control.  You know — fruit of the Spirit.  This is what one loving soul told me this week about my penchant for focusing on the fruit of the Spirit.

What about righteousness?  What about holiness?  What about purity?  If the love of God extends to all then our faith is a mockery.  Sin is sin, and your stupid unconditional love theology just shows you don’t understand the mind of God at all. 

Okay.  I’m good with that.  My God is a God of love, not hate.  I can accept that others want to punish and torture those they disagree with.  I don’t have any sympathy for them, but I acknowledge they exist, and if they can sleep at night, I can accept them.  I simply will never accept any theology that strives to hate, exclude, condemn, and judge others simply because they think differently than I do.

The Christian call to humility may be our most extreme challenge.  To not force one’s own opinions on others — wow, how can we live with that?  To allow that others have the right to think differently — how could Christians possibly cope?  To not think more highly of our own thoughts and opinions than those of others?  How un American!  To not judge?  To not hate?  To not condemn?  What fun is that?

Humility.  What does it mean?  What does it look like?  What would our faith look like if more of us took it seriously?  I wonder…

9 replies

  1. When I speak of faith with one who disagrees with me I cannot help but see how real their faith is to them. I just wish sometimes that their faith did not compel them try and convert me.

  2. Aren’t you forcing your opinions on others? At least you sound very opinionated and judgemental about judgemenalism. Isn’t there truth beyond the relativism you are suggesting? Isn’t there anything worth fighting for? Maybe without the smug arrogance between Christians.

    • Is sharing an opinion “forcing” it on someone? You seem free to disagree. Those who see no value in humility will not like what I said. There is no direct correlation between fighting for something you believe in and being humble. Not everyone who fights for their conviction does it from a base of self-righteousness.

  3. Welcome back, Dan, I missed your blogging.

    Yes, humility is challenging. It is challenging not only in general, but in the specific of my life. One of my heroes, Jacob/Israel, wrestled for a blessing and saw G*D, face-to-face. There is humility in such action. Another of my heroes, Jesus, is said to have humbled himself unto death and let G*D-be-G*D. There is humility in such trust.

    This last week has felt like a wrestling week. Other weeks have been more trusting.

    It seems easier to see humility in trust rather than in action. A story from the Jewish tradition I found online commenting on Moses’ humility concluded with the Rabbi saying: “Knowing your own greatness [“child of G*Dness”] is no contradiction to humility. On the contrary, ultimate humility is achieved by a person who excels in good attributes but takes no credit for his greatness. He realizes that all his achievements come from G-d, and therefore he isn’t conceited or self-congratulatory.” [note added]

    I appreciate your attempts to guide us into paths of conversation held at 3 mph – a speed we can journey and talk at – G*D’s speed [according to Kosuke Koyama]. As one who prefers to mosey at 2 mph and with friends who clip along at 4 mph, it is tricky to humbly speed up or slow down.

    Blessings upon you as your leadership toward “conversation” proceeds with feet of others simultaneously tromping on both the accelerator and brake. May you find a way to be humble when it actually does work, miraculously, against all odds [a more difficult humility?]. May you find a way to be humble should it go as awry as last year [an easier humility?].

  4. Great questions, Dan.

    Humility – as I understand the term – entails being ever mindful of our own faults and therefore having a properly low opinion of ourselves. It suggests as well a willing submission to God and others.

    How do you match acting on our convictions and beliefs with humility? This strikes me as a big challenge.

    If I am always ready to say, “I might be wrong,” does that extend to the racist or the genocidal warlord?

  5. I too have missed your blog entries and appreciate their return!

    “Humility” for me has to do with “humus” or the ground. A person with humility is like a meek person: someone who knows their proper place in God’s creation. That place is not necessarily or only or properly “at the bottom” or lowly, but it is the “right” place (like kairos being the right time).

    A person with humility is “grounded” in the ground of our being. Such a person has feet planted firmly on the ground of both planet and relationships. Humble people are earthy folks, who know the ways of the world and work for the ways of the kindom of God.

    As John suggests, acting with humility can be challenging, especially ISTM since we do not generally find ourselves able to manage the perceptions of others! In my mind, John’s example of the racist is instructive. I can with humility state that the racist is wrong, even though I may at times exhibit racist qualities and even though others might find my opinion or expression to seem lacking in humility. However, my awareness of my place in the scheme of things enables me to make judgements and act on them.

  6. Folks in AA talk about humility as the ability to see oneself “right-sized.” This has always been helpful, at least to me.

  7. Dan,

    I lift the wisdom of Yogi Berra who said, ‘you can observe a lot just by watching.’ Thanks for your observations.

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