There’s a game that kids like to play. It goes something like this. One kid will say something along the lines of “You’re stupid.” “No, I’m not,” the other replies. “Yes, you are.” “No, I’m not.” “yes you are.” “no…..” You get the picture. The initial statement is soon forgotten, all that matters is being contrary to whatever is being said. Then, all of a sudden, one of the kids switches sides. Most of the time the other won’t pick up on it as an agreement but will switch sides too just to keep the pattern going. That’s an opposite picture for what our next “One Another” encouragement is all about.
Peter writes in his first letter, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NASB95) He had earlier charged the elders with specific responsibilities and attitudes. What is in view for us is the middle part of the verse, “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another.” Reviewing other “one another” verses that touch humility in some way we find four ways that humility should be expressed towards each other.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5–7, NASB95) Acceptance contains the idea of welcoming and receiving someone into our home and our circle of friends. Through acceptance, we recognize our unity in Christ and our differences from each other.
Where acceptance seems to be about that initial welcome and display of hospitality, tolerance goes even further. Tolerance has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Mostly because some demand tolerance but fail to offer it in return. Paul wrote, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, NASB95) One definition of tolerance is “putting up with” one another. There are things we must agree on, and things that we are free to have differing opinions on. But, if we’re frank what we mostly have to “put up with” could be called personality and how someone has been shaped by pain, fear, and love. We see this in the unity and diversity of Jesus’ chosen disciples. Imagine, if you will, the degree of tolerance needed between Matthew, the Roman sympathizing civil servant, and Simon, the firebrand zealot seeking to overturn Roman rule.
One step farther
A few verses later Paul wrote, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB95) Let’s be clear, being subject to one another means voluntarily yielding in submission to one another in love. Offering acceptance and welcome. Got that. Being willing to put up with each other, Ok, I think I can handle that most of the time. Well, some of the time anyway. But submitting to one another? That means letting them into my heart and life. Letting others tell me things I don’t want to hear. Stretching me into things I may not feel comfortable with. It means trusting them to love me. Boy, do I have a hard time with that one.
Why? Why do we have a hard time submitting to one another? Some of it has to do with unhealed scars of the past. We’ve been wounded so it is hard to trust again. Some of it is pride, we don’t think or see that we need someone’s help or perspective. Some of it may come from feelings of insignificance and inadequacy. We may fear that submission will feed those feelings and keep us from standing.
There are several “one another” statements that warn us about the opposite of humility. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16, NASB95) And following Paul’s teaching on the Fruit of the Spirit he wrote, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25–26, NASB95) Lastly, he wrote, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3, NASB95) Don’t be prideful and an arrogant know it all. Don’t envy one another. Don’t play king of the hill or jockey for position. Don’t be selfish and conceited. Do regard, count, and consider, one another as more important and more valuable than you are.
All of these, in one way or another, have to do with how we measure ourselves against others. Treating each other with humility means putting away the tape measures and calculators. It means reckoning that what really matters is whether we are growing in Jesus no matter how mature we think we are. Consider this. We may see a vast difference between the worldiest believer and the saintliest saint. But when measured against Jesus they aren’t that far apart. After salvation, what matters most is growth. Are we growing in Christ more and more each day? The moment we think we’ve arrived all growth stops.
Clothed with humility
I will readily admit that walking in humility towards one another is not easy. It’s against our nature. We fear being trampled on and not being treated fairly. We fear giving humility but never getting it in return. Yes, there will be folks that abuse our humility for their own gain. So what?! That gain will be short-lived and is worthless in the economy of God’s kingdom. What else did Peter say in the verse we began with? “for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I need all the grace I can get. So let’s accept one another, tolerate and put up with one another, yield in submission to one another, put away the tape measures and calculators we use to judge one another, and endeavor to walk with each other further into this life of following Jesus Christ. Walking with Jesus is not an adventure in solitude, we really do need each other.