Learning Humility from the Apostle Peter
Two of the greatest Christian thinkers God has given the Church were Augustine Aurelius and John Calvin. Both emphasized humility as the chief virtue of the Christian life. Calvin wrote:
I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, “The foundation of our philosophy is humility;” and still more with those of Augustine, “As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility.” By humility he means not when a man, with a consciousness of some virtue, refrains from pride, but when he truly feels that he has no refuge but in humility. (Institutes, II, ii, 11)
Humility is a hard thing to define. How do you know when you are acquiring it? It is hard to claim that you have it, because when you do, you have immediately lost it. The Apostle Peter helps us greatly here in 1 Peter 5:5-6. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. Notice three keys to acquiring the virtue of humility.
Humility is primarily seen in how we treat others. Humility is “toward one another.” Philippians 2:3-4 may be the best definition of this aspect of humility found in Scripture: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
What does it mean to count others more significant than yourselves? It carries the idea of treating others as worthy of preferential treatment ahead of oneself. So here, humility is recognizing the worth of others and treating them accordingly. We could think of many examples, couldn’t we? Letting them speak first before us. Giving up the prime seat for a lower one. Passing up the closer parking spot for them to get it. Taking time to listen even when we know we must tell them they are wrong at some point. Being patient when wronged rather than reacting in haste and fury. All these things show true humility in our treatment of others.
Humility is seen in submitting to those God has placed over us. Notice how Peter connects submission to authority (in this case the authority of church elders, v. 5), with being humble. Proud people do not want to submit because they are wiser, smarter, or better in some way than the ones over them. Why should we listen to others when we know best? says the proud. But true humility recognizes God-ordained authority, and respects that authority, even submitting when we would rather not. A good question is, Is there anyone God has placed over me whom I am resisting & giving a hard time (parents, husband, employer, church leaders, police, etc.)?
Humility is revealed in service to believers God has placed around us. Clothe yourselves, v. 5, refers to a servant putting on an apron. We all know what servants put aprons on to do. When given opportunities to serve my fellow-believers, what do I do with those opportunities? The answer tells us if we are humble, doesn’t it?
Your friend, trying to learn from Peter, Pastor Brian (:-}).