Recently I read an article written by Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and who has worked within the last three Republican Administrations. When asked what constructive contribution Christians could make to public life, Wehner said, “humility”.
Humility, he wrote, is a neglected Christian virtue. He finds this odd given that humility should be one of the defining traits of every Christian—IF our goal is to be like Christ. “The resurrection, celebrated by Christians throughout the world, was made possible by an act of unsurpassed humility. According to Paul, Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Instead, Jesus emptied himself taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men.”
Wehner laments that humility is hardly a hallmark of American Christianity—and especially, he says, of those who are prominently involved in politics. There we most often see pride, arrogance, and haughtiness.
Humility doesn’t mean we should never speak truth about those things that should be judged as right or wrong. But we ought first to be alert to our own shortcomings—to the awareness of how wayward our own hearts can be, and how often our attempts at goodness are tainted with selfish motives. All of us struggle with the brokenness of our lives at times. This argument for more humility is not an argument for self-loathing—it is a call for more self-awareness.
At the core of our Christian faith is the belief that we have fallen short. If that is our starting point, then humility must quickly follow.
I notice in too many of my Christian brothers and sisters a kind of certitude—an air that they have all the answers to all of life’s questions. Such attitudes naturally lead us to be less tolerant of anyone around us who thinks differently. And from there it is only a short hop to demonizing the “other”.
Humility believes in collective wisdom—that we are better off having a lot of people around us and making sure that we all don’t see things the same way. That we are able to listen to others and learn from them. In order to do that, we all must escape the “echo chambers” we typically build around ourselves—chambers that are filled with only those who look and sound exactly like us—so that the only sound we ever hear is the echo of our own voice. That might carry a strange sense of security with it, but it is a false sense of security—it isn’t real.
Jesus said let the greatest among you become a servant and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. The cross made the resurrection possible. Humility paved the way for hope. So if humility was good enough for Jesus, why not for the rest of us, too??