"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1Pe 5:1-7)

Have you ever had that experience of wanting to help someone but they just won't let you? You know the problem he is facing from your own experience, know what it takes to solve the problem, but when you try to help you run up against stubborn resistance. He thinks he knows better and just doesn't want to hear. That's a problem most parents find with their children, too. From your standpoint the person you are trying to help just doesn't understand. From his standpoint you are seen as trying to lord it over and control him. It can be frustrating on both sides. Each person thinks they know what is right or best. We tend to think the conflict is a problem of who is right and who is wrong. Usually the conflict is created by pride and lack of trust.

Those are the kind of things Peter is describing in 1 Peter 5. Whenever you get a group of people together there will be differences of opinion, knowledge and experience. The temptation we always face is to think that what we know is right and anyone who disagrees must therefore be wrong. It's sometimes a problem due to youth. We even have a word in English, "sophomoric," to represent this type of youthful pride that comes from having a little bit of knowledge. At the other extreme is the arrogant elder who thinks that just because he has a world of experience he can tell everyone else what to do. In both cases it is a problem born out of pride. And, the solution in both cases is the same: humility.

In the worldly way of thinking, humility has a negative connation while pride has a positive connotation. If we say that something was a humiliating experience we mean that it was an embarrassment that we would rather have avoided. Most likely humiliation was brought on by our own mistakes. Pride is likewise promoted as a good thing. We are to take pride in our accomplishments, pride in our heritage, pride in our Nation, etc. Most of all, we are to seek to make something of ourselves so that we can be proud of what we have done. We are all encouraged to seek to be exalted as the best and brightest in everything we do. To say, "I'm proud of you" or, "You can be proud of yourself," is a very high compliment to someone. So, this type of thinking is engrained in us subconsciously our entire lives.

Like with many other things, Christian doctrine reverses the way the world thinks of things. We are to be humble, not proud. This, I think, is why many people reject Christianity and where many who otherwise accept Jesus run into a continuous problem. We don't want to be humble because we still are working from a set of beliefs engrained in us from our earliest moments. The attitudes of the world are dragged along into our Christian lives. We want to be the one who has all the answers and to get the respect of other people. We want to be proud of our knowledge of the Bible, our good works, etc. It is that desire to be exalted that Peter warns against. Jesus warned of it, too.

"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Mat 23:5-12)

"And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luk 14:7-11)

Jesus didn't just say these things either. His whole life on earth was a continuous example of this principle. Even though he was greater than all his disciples, he stripped to his undergarments and washed his disciples' feet. It is one of the lowest acts, reserved only for servants, but he did not feel any shame in doing this. Even more, he humbly submitted to be crucified for our sakes. His exaltation comes from that humility. It was God's willingness to be humiliated for our sakes that gives us the hope of salvation. Think on that. If God was willing to do that, we must be willing to do the same in return.

This also gives us guidance in how to handle situations where we are pretty sure we're right and the other is wrong. Jesus didn't just preach humility, he lived it and thus gave us an example. As Peter says to the elders of the Church, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" is the way to live humility. Be an example of what you think is right. Others will see it, consider it, and learn from it.

It's another paradox of Christian doctrine. Just as we die to live, we humble ourselves to be exalted. But, it really makes a lot of sense once you realize what it is like to try and help someone weaker or younger or less knowledgeable than yourself. If you've had that experience, you come away thinking that if that person would just trust in what you say, it would go much better for them. We have to realize that we are the weaker, younger, less knowledgeable one in relationship to God. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" as Peter says. God knows our needs and knows the solution to our problems. But until we are willing to be humble before Him, we won't accept the solution He gives to us. Just as until we recognize our need for salvation, we won't seek Jesus. This humility of spirit is the starting point of our salvation and carries forward into all that we do and say.

There is no need to exalt ourselves. When we humbly seek His way, willing to trust in His guidance, God will exalt us. He will then say, "I'm proud of you Child." And, that is all I need.

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (Jam 4:10)


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