May 24, 2020 – 1 Peter 5:5

Humility

   Our text is 1 Peter 5:5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Though not officially part of our reading from the Epistle today, it is part of the context. Together with the verses that were read it is a relevant lesson for all of us, the people of God, all of the time. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…” should be carved above every entry to this sanctuary. It should be read out loud before every church related meeting. It should serve as a sentry standing guard before our minds, mouths and hearts so that pride would not invade our thoughts, words and deeds.

   Clothing ourselves with humility toward one another must be connected to genuine humility before God. Genuine humility before God must be connected to both God’s Law (what He expects us to do) and God’s Gospel (what He has done for us in Christ). If we were all truly humble before God and each other it would be the end of partisanship (a plague more devastating to the Church than covid 19). If all of us were humbly obedient to God’s Law and Gospel (4:17), it would be the end of heresy (division), quarreling and backbiting.

   Clothed in humility toward one another we would all be able to heed Peter’s advice, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (5:6-7) Clothed in humility toward God and one another we would “be sober-minded” and “watchful” for the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (5:8) The proud are easy prey for the devil. That is why he exerts so much energy tempting us to be arrogant, self-important, unrepentant prigs. It is always why the Holy Spirit exerts so much energy teaching us to be humble toward God and one another.

   For example: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Pet 3:8) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another.” (James 4:10-11) “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col 3:12-13) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counts others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3)

   Peter writes, “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.” (4:17) Listening to those Bible passages I certainly am shown that I am not clothed with humility. Are you always of a humble mind? Do you always put on humility? Do you always count others more significant than yourself?

   It is unnerving how quickly we become like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of two men praying, a story of God opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble. Jesus told this story “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” (Lk 18:9) Two men go into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men…I fast…I give tithes.” The other was a tax collector, a social pariah, an outcast, a traitor to his people. He stood far off, did not lift his eyes to heaven, “but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Jesus says the tax collector “went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:10-14)

   The musical Evita tells the story of Eva Duarte. She married Juan Peron, President of Argentina, and became first lady. The rich and powerful, however, did not accept her because she came from a lower middle class background. She responds by wanting more and more to be one of the rich and powerful. At one point she tells her handlers, “I came from the people, they need to adore me, so Christian Dior me from my head to my toes.” She yields to the temptation of pride. She doesn’t clothe herself with humility. “I’m their savior, that’s what they call me, so Lauren Bacall me, anything goes.”

   Let judgment begin with us. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Your claim to righteousness is not what you have done because the Law demands absolute perfection. Your claim to righteousness is what Christ has done for you. He is the quintessential model of humility. Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name…” (Phil 2:7-8)

   Rely on what Christ has done for you. It isn’t enough to say that you will follow His example (though, of course, you should). Before you follow Christ as an example believe in Him as your Savior. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:27-28)

   Don’t Christian Dior yourself. Don’t Lauren Bacall yourself. In baptism you have been clothed in Christ’s humility and “the God of grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet 5:10-11)

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