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by Sandy Fields

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    Years ago, just after I was married, I decided that Galatians 5:22-23 were verses that I needed to memorize and repeat often. I wanted my life to be ruled by God’s Spirit. I wanted these spiritual qualities to be produced in my life. I memorized the list from my Good News Bible (also known as Today’s English Version). Of all the versions I’ve looked at today, it is the only one that uses the word humility. The majority of translations use the word “gentleness.” A few translations use the word “meekness.” One version reads “gentle behavior.” Looking through the definitions given for the Greek word revealed several other suggested meanings and uses like “mildness of disposition,” “gentleness of spirit,” “consideration,” and “walking humbly with God.”

    Since I’ve spent the last two decades repeating this list over and over again using “humility,” and since it seems to be the root characteristic that produces the behavior suggested by the other words, let’s stick with humility for our thoughts today.

    I’ve been thinking about this particular dimension of spiritual fruit for awhile now... wondering what to say. This is probably because this one is the toughest spiritual characteristic for me. I really struggle with humility and pride. Some fuzzy boundaries come with the concept of pride as we use the word today. Patience... goodness... those seem pretty cut and dried. Pride seems to have some pro and con sides — a confidence in God and my relationship with Him that is good and an arrogance about self that is destructive and hurtful.

    We’re all always eager to let children know how proud we are of them. We affirm their good qualities and their efforts toward using their their talents. We pass out awards to the best teacher, the smartest student, and the most talented actor. It’s a wonderful way to encourage each other. We’re taught to have pride in our appearance and not to look sloppy. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, so we should take pride in doing a good job. This approach — let’s call it non-arrogant pride — seems pretty great as long as we don’t go overboard and we give the ultimate glory to God. But therein lies the problem: where is overboard? How much is too much? When does it become destructive pride and hurtful arrogance?

    Maybe that’s a question each us needs to answer with the Spirit’s help! Maybe it’s our willingness to ask for the Spirit’s help in dealing with this issue that opens the door for our confidence to be shown as “gentle behavior” and “walking humbly with God.”

    While we lived on Guam, I had an interesting experience that I hope changed me for the better. It certainly made me think. It still does. About 100 of us participated in a Passion Play. The participants came from all over the island. The play was put on in a military theater. About half the people in attendance were in the Navy or the Air Force — there was nearly always a great mix of people on Guam... Filipinos, Chamorros, Asians, Statesiders, military. We practiced in the evenings, so most people were out of their work clothes and into something comfortable when we rehearsed. It was freezing in that theater, so most of us would have on sweatshirts. No social symbols showed through. We took our cues on who each of us were in real life from our behavior.

    A handful of people had speaking parts, but most of us were the crowd that sang. On the final night of our performance, many people were exchanging telephone numbers and addresses so we could keep in touch. One young woman asked me if I was Navy or Air Force. I told her I was a civilian. Her jaw dropped with a, “No way!!” She said she couldn’t believe that I wasn’t an officer... that she had been sure the whole time that I was an officer... just the way I walked and talked.

I really struggle with humility and pride.
    At first I was flattered and thought it was a nice compliment, one that I had never received before. However, it slowly begin to eat at me and disturb me. Had I made her feel inferior with the way I walked and talked? Did I give off some kind of attitude that demanded more respect than others in the room? Did I march into situations like a bully with a “Show me respect or else!!!” chip on my shoulder? To this day, her comment kind of haunts me. I use it to remind myself that I don’t want to come across as an officer in God’s army. I just want to be one of His enlisted servants. I want Him to lead and I want to serve and help others who serve.

    Jesus comes out very clearly against pride.

Jesus said: What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God. (Mark 7:20-23)

    God names 7 things that He hates, and a proud look tops the list:

The Lord hates these six, no seven, things: eyes that show a man is proud, tongues that tells lies, hands that kill innocent people, hearts that plan bad things to do, feet that run to do evil things, a person who tells lies in court and says things that are not true, a person who starts arguments and causes fights between other people. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

    Since our Father and Savior have gone on record about pride and its place in holy estimation, maybe we should examine our hearts. So many around us are in need of someone who understands, cares, and will gently help them home to Jesus. They need someone with a quiet confidence and a gentle pride that folks in God’s family are who they are because of His glory and grace, not their own. So as the Spirit does His work, let’s be confident in our walk with God and gently help others join us on the path. And as we journey, let’s ask God to make us gentle, meek and humble.

 
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      © 2002, Sandy Fields. Used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Sandy Fields
      Publication Date: October 20, 2002


 
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