Humility and Grace

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the Scripture saith, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

One of the constant challenges that we face as followers of Jesus Christ is the development of the characteristic of humility. Humility does not come naturally to humans-- we have a tendency to want to exalt ourselves, to consider ourselves as having more value and importance than other people, and to focus on how we are superior to others. Yet, in Christ, we understand that each person, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, pleasant or unpleasant, has equal value and standing before God (Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28). Jesus reflected the values of humility (Matthew 11:28-30), and we are to pattern our lives after Him (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6). Jesus consistently proclaimed a sobering message: whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted (e.g. Matthew 23:12).

Humility is not an easy characteristic to develop. In order to become or to remain humble, we must remind ourselves of many uncomfortable truths: we are not perfect (Romans 3:23), we have done many things of which we are ashamed (Romans 6:21), and we ourselves are continually need of forgiveness (1 John 1:8). We also must not notice our humility, for as soon as we think highly of ourselves because of perceived humility, that humility has entirely vanished!

A critical companion of humility is grace. As James indicates, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). When people come to the realization of their sinfulness and their need for reconciliation with God, God is willing to freely grant it through His Son (Romans 5:6-11, Titus 3:3-8). Likewise, when people recognize that they are no better than their fellow man, they are better equipped to show grace to one another, being more forgiving than judgmental and condemning (Matthew 7:1-4, Romans 14:7-12).

We understand the difficulty of humility when we first become Christians, and many mightily struggle with their pride as they develop as disciples. Nevertheless, the challenge of humility and grace is even greater when we believe that we have developed into maturity in the faith.

Those who are mature, in thought or truth, should pause and give heed to Paul's messages in Romans 2:17-24, Ephesians 2:1-11, and Titus 3:3-8. While Paul is addressing a Jewish audience in Romans 2:17-24, the principle stands true for all: are we making sure that if we proclaim and profess various things as being true, are we doing them ourselves? If we question the faithfulness of Christians who struggle with attending assemblies, are we assembling as often as possible? If we are convinced that Christians around us are worldly, are we also acting in worldly ways? Are we acting as maturely as we profess to act? Or "is the name of God blasphemed among the Gentiles" because of us (cf. Romans 2:24)?

Paul, in Ephesians 2:1-11 and Titus 3:3-8, reminds believers about how they were saved. He declares how we were all separated from Christ, in sin, and condemned. He then reminds believers that they were not saved because of works done in righteousness or because of any special standing before God but through the grace and mercy of God demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. It is when we remember these things that we can then devote ourselves to good works.

Paul is speaking to the "mature" as much as to the "immature." As one grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and doing better in striving for holiness, it is very easy to begin to develop sanctimony about our "spiritual stature" and to look down at others who seem less spiritual and less godly than we are. And that is why humility and grace remain essential, for no matter how far we develop in holiness, it has never been about us. Without God we could never be holy; no matter how holy we become, we still have our weaknesses, challenges, and difficulties (Romans 3:23).

Therefore, we must remain humble so that we may receive grace. If we remain humble, we are better positioned to show grace to others. You see others who struggle with various challenges; know that you struggle also. Know that we judge others for their performance while judging ourselves by our intentions. None of us are perfect; we all need grace and mercy from God, and He will not show grace and mercy to the ungrateful and merciless. Let us remain humble and show graciousness, and put away all self-righteousness and sanctimony!

Ethan R. Longhenry via Good News For Norwalk Volume V, Number 43: November 07, 2010

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