How would you caption the photo above? “She got the whole world in her hands”? “She’s got a big head”? What I see is humility. I see a global focus, a focus that is bigger than oneself. I see a person that wants the world to be in the spotlight, not themself. (I wonder how the photographer would caption the photo?)
The photo illustrates our study this week in Colossians 3:12-17, where Paul says that Christians should put on the new clothing of the way of Jesus. Yesterday we looked at how he said, “Clothe yourselves with compassion.” He continues with more clothing.
Next Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with…kindness.” This is speaking and acting with kindness, which is quite similar to compassion, isn’t it? Kindness should show in our tone of voice, in our generosity, in our care for people. When Michelle and I were in Bible college, every year before the spring semester started, the whole student body would return to school a week early for a mission conference. For a couple years, one afternoon of the mission conference was devoted to a unique outreach opportunity. We would go out into the community to do random acts of kindness. Students would pay parking meters for people in the city. Clean toilets at restaurants. Collect trash. It was a fun time, but kindness is not to be random because God is not random. His kindness to us is absolutely intentional, purposeful. So we should practice consistent, intentional kindness toward others, even toward those who are difficult for us.
Then Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with…humility.” This is both a humble attitude and action. In my doctoral classes, it was fascinating how often humility came up in the readings we had to do. It is almost as if humility is in second place for the most important quality a Christian should have. What is in first place? Take a quick peek at verse 14. We’ll talk about that in one of the upcoming posts this week. Hint: it’s love! But humility is not far behind love in its value and impact. Humility is the opposite of arrogance. Remember that student who wrote that paper criticizing the denomination? I mentioned that person in the previous post. He left no room in his paper for the possibility that he might be wrong in any way. He comes across not only as a know-it-all, but as a person who does not give any impression that he is aware of other ways of thinking. Instead he communicates as if his view is the only view, as if it is so obvious that everyone already knows it and agrees with him. Does that describe you? To that Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with humility,” which means that you will leave room open for the possibility that you are wrong. Fight against arrogance in yourself. Even if you don’t believe you are wrong, humility says that you should make room for that possibility. We humans, almost by definition, are fallible, and we need to own that.
Years ago I was having a discussion with a person who was disgruntled about my preaching. They claimed that their perspective was 100% right, and what I had preached was wrong. So I responded asking them, “Are you telling me that there is no chance that your viewpoint is even slightly wrong?” They confirmed that they believed there was no possibility that they were wrong. I was astounded. We went back and forth about this, until finally the person begrudgingly admitted that maybe there was a 1% possibility they were wrong. When the meeting was over, we hugged, and I thought it finished well. They never came back to the church.
I think that person and others like them fear a wishy-washy faith. They would say, “Aren’t there foundational truths that we Christians hold to? Aren’t there times when it is important to say we are 100% committed to a particular belief or idea?” Of course. But I would suggest that those foundational views are very few and far between. A couple years ago, our local Ministerium felt we should create a document to us identify what we believed in common as Christian churches of many different denominations. We kept the document purposefully very short, trying to focus on the absolute essentials that all Christians believe, such as the Apostle’s Creed. But this clothing of humility reminds that even when it comes to those foundational beliefs, we are called to hold them with a humble attitude and tone.
What can be so difficult is when people elevate the non-essentials to the level of essentials. Or when there are disagreements in a church family. Or in any family or workplace. We are to be people who hold our opinions with humility, not with arrogance. What do we do about that?
Check back in to the next post, as the next item of clothing Paul says we should put on will help us know how to handle differences of opinion!