In my humble opinion

I suppose that most of us think we’re humble, at least mostly humble.

And if we’re ever proud, it’s a good kind of pride, the innocent kind, like being proud of your kids or rejoicing over some kind of success.

All that makes humility somewhat elusive, because most of us think we’ve really got all of it we need.

It’s easy to notice when other people need it, though. I can think of quite a few people who could stand a big dose of humility, can’t you?

But me?

Not so much.

Humility is one of those attributes that goes against the grain of things that matter to us.

Many of us have joined Lee Greenwood in belting out the lyrics to “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. . . .”

But there’s nothing wrong with patriotic pride.

And I’ve said a time or two, “I’m proud of my kids.”

But there’s nothing wrong with parental pride.

And maybe we’ve boasted a little about our accomplishments at work or school.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little personal pride.

Right?

The problem is that pride deceives.

It lies to the one who harbors it. It points out the faults in others but blinds us to our own.

And that makes it difficult to recognize.

In contrast, humility is always outward-focused.

It elevates others, putting them on the pedestal and ourselves in the shadows.

It doesn’t advance its own agenda; it’s never self-serving.

The root word for humility means to lie low, pointing to a submissive bodily posture.

But of course it doesn’t necessarily mean that we bow physically. Instead, it points to a condition of the heart.

It’s an internal posture that says, “It’s not all about me. I don’t have to have my way. Let me serve you.”

Paul wrote that God’s children are to put on humility as one of the beautiful garments of Christ-likeness (Colossians 3:12).

And really, we see it most clearly at Calvary. Jesus “emptied himself” and took on the “form of a servant.” When he came to earth he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

The tough thing about humility is that we never fully get there. We’ll be working on it the rest of our lives.

But humility is like the other Christian graces, I suppose.

The more time we spend reflecting on what Jesus did at the cross, the closer we’ll get to modeling the essence of who he is.

How will you treat the difficult person you’ll meet today?

Kindness is tough.

Not always, of course.

Sometimes it comes easily, like when your marriage is good and the stress is low and you have warm, fuzzy feelings about your spouse.

And sometimes it’s easy to be kind to your kids . . . when they’re behaving and smiling and happy and everything just feels right.

And the sweet little lady at church—who could be mean to her?

But maybe those situations aren’t the best ones to gauge how kind we are.

To paraphrase the Lord, “Even unbelievers are kind when it’s easy, aren’t they?”

Perhaps we should look at it more closely.

Paul wrote that it’s one of the most important marks of being a Christian: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, . . .” (Colossians 3:12).

As with most things, the biblical notion of kindness is deep and nuanced. It’s much more than merely being nice to people you like.

It goes beyond what we do when we feel happy and relaxed and pleasant.

God’s kindness is treating people well when you don’t feel like it.

It’s putting your spouse’s needs before your own when he’s not acting like he should.

It’s responding to your children patiently when they’re misbehaving.

Beyond that, it’s treating people well when they don’t deserve it, folks who don’t like you, people you don’t like.

The irritable boss, the incompetent store clerk, the socially maladjusted neighbor.

How do we treat them?

It’s one thing to smile at people who are smiling at you.

It’s quite another to send a smile in return for a scowl.

As you reflect on kindness today, God will present you with some opportunities to practice.

You’ll probably have some of those made-for-kindness moments, opportunities to serve people it’s easy to serve.

And then you’ll meet that other guy, the grumpy, mean-spirited, get-out-of-my-way kind of guy.

What then?

When his heart becomes ours

Once God grabs us, he wants us all.

He’s not satisfied with just our heads, our intellect, though he wants that.

He wants our wills, but more than that.

He’s concerned about our walk—what we do—but again, he doesn’t stop there.

He wants our hearts, our emotions, our feelings.

In fact, Paul writes that one of the first signs that Jesus has truly become our Lord is when our hearts become his:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, . . .” (Colossians 3:12).

He’s just written that Christians have to get rid of those old attitudes and practices—sexual immorality, anger, dishonesty, obscene speech.

But it’s not enough for our Christianity to be defined by what we don’t do. Too often we’re known more by what we’re against than what we’re for.

So Paul counterbalances his discussion on getting rid of sin by emphasizing what needs to replace those bad habits.

And first on his list is compassionate hearts.

Because the Lord now rules our lives, his heart becomes ours as our hearts become his.

The “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” sympathizes with us in our weakness, so we extend that compassion to the people around us.

What this means practically is that we care about people, and we’re especially sympathetic when they’re hurting.

It means our Christianity is often seen more clearly in the hospital than it is in the sanctuary.

Some weeks you’ll do more Christ-following at the funeral home on Thursday than you’ll do at the church building on a dozen Sundays.

An uncompassionate Christian is an oxymoron. It just doesn’t work.

God really does want all of us, including our hearts.

Especially our hearts.

Chosen by God

God picked us.

It’s a wonderful thought to be chosen by God, isn’t it?

But it introduces quite a few questions.

Why was I born into a home where I would be taught about Jesus from the cradle, while a baby down the street was born to a family that cared nothing for things of God?

It certainly wasn’t because I deserved it, or that the other child didn’t.

So why?

Did God arbitrarily choose me and reject the other baby?

People have wrestled with God’s election for thousands of years. Many of us believe—for good reasons, I think—that God never takes away human free will, that each of us can choose to accept or reject his call.

We also believe that God has chosen the church to be saved; he adds everyone who accepts his call to his family, the church, and one day he’ll return to save it.

This idea of election certainly permeates the Bible. Here’s how Paul begins one section of a letter: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, . . . (Colossians 3:12).

“God’s chosen ones,” he calls us.

Other translations put it differently: “the elect of God” (NKJV), “those who have been chosen of God” (NASB), “God’s chosen people” (TNIV), “God has chosen you” (NCV), “he . . . chose you for his own” (GNB), and “Since God chose you” (NLT).

I’m not sure that we know all of the implications of God’s picking us, but one thing is clear.

It’s an incredible blessing.

God has chosen us to be in his family. We’re his “holy” people, his “beloved” children.

We don’t deserve it, and we’ll never earn it.

It comes to us because of who he is and what he’s like.

But it’s important to remember that Paul calls us “God’s chosen ones” in the context of how we ought to live: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, . . .”

In other words, “because God chose you, you ought to live your life according to his will.”

I think that’s where our focus should be.

Maybe I shouldn’t dwell on why he blessed me in ways he didn’t the child down the street.

Maybe we shouldn’t think so much about why he chooses the way he does . . . why he opens doors for some and not for others.

Maybe we ought to focus more on the so that than we do the why or how.

He chose us so that we will live for him.

He picked us so that we would reflect his character.

He elected us so that we would obey him.

Chosen by God. Picked to be in his family.

What a humbling position. What an awesome blessing.

A great big family

God’s family has a beautiful blend of people in it.

We like different music, pursue different hobbies, and wear different clothes.

We come from various backgrounds, and none of us dress the same, talk the same, or act the same.

But we’re children of the same Father, and we call the same Savior “Lord.”

It’s exciting to see how God is bringing people together in his church.

He’s always done it, but sometimes folks have struggled with it.

Paul reminded a group of Christians who might’ve been thinking too much of superficial distinctions:

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11).

He wanted them to remember that in the church it’s not about ethnicity (Greek and Jew), religious heritage (circumcised and uncircumcised), culture (barbarian or Scythian), or social status (slave or free).

And that might be a good reminder for us as well, because one of the things that makes the body strong is how God takes us all—regardless of differences—and puts us in one family.

We may be black, white, or Latino.

Maybe we grew up in a Christian home, or something far from it.

We’re products of different cultures that shaped us socially and behaviorally.

And we come from various places on the economic spectrum.

But we’re one in Christ.

We share the greatest commonality there is . . . we’re sinners saved by Christ’s blood, and we’re trying to live to his glory.

Heaven won’t be segregated, and as we grow in Christ the artificial differences that have separated so many people here become less and less important to us.

We start to think of people not according to race or social status.

We call each other brother or sister because we’re family.

And that relationship trumps everything else.

Always avoid the big lies

Everybody knows it’s wrong to tell lies.

Especially big ones.

If you tell the government you made x last year when you really made y, that’s lying, and it’s wrong.

If you tell your wife you had to work late when you didn’t, that’s a clear-cut lie. Again, wrong.

But on lesser matters, it’s murkier, isn’t it?

What’s the harm in telling the telemarketer your spouse isn’t home, even when she’s in the kitchen?

It’s not really that big a deal to tell your two-year-old that Fluffy didn’t die . . . she just went to a nice big farm to play with a whole bunch of other nice kitties (for a really long time).

Or maybe it’s a bigger deal than we think.

God has always loved honesty and hated lying.

It seems that some of the Christians at Colossae had forgotten this, falling back into some of their pre-Christian habits. Paul told them: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

Paul’s grammar here is interesting, and his command might be translated something like this: “You used to tell lies to one another as though it was the natural thing to do; don’t do it any more” (P.T. O’Brien).

His reasoning is simple:

Honesty = New (Christian) self

Dishonesty = Old (pre-Christian) self

He gently reminds them that they’re acting like they used to act, like unbelievers, and it’s inconsistent with the new life God gave them.

His point: Tell the truth.

Always.

On big things and little things, important stuff and lesser stuff, even when no one will ever know.

Honesty isn’t always easy, but it always honors God.

If you don’t have something good to say . . .

Ever been around someone who had something negative to say about everyone?

I hope it wasn’t at church.

I especially hope it wasn’t at church about someone else at church.

You sorta expect to hear it at work. People whose lives haven’t been changed by Christ sometimes have negative attitudes toward others.

You don’t get very far into a conversation before the insults start being thrown.

“Oh, John? He’s clueless, never really does anything meaningful for the company.”

“Karen? I can’t even stand to be in the same room with her.”

“Mark? He’s so annoying.”

If it weren’t so serious, it’s almost funny to see how quickly they can say something negative about anyone you can think of.

But of course it’s not just at work. Apparently some of it was happening among the Christians at Colossae.

Paul warned them: “But now you must put them all away: . . . malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).

He returned to the subject a few verses later: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (4:6).

And maybe the Christians in Ephesus were doing a little negative talk as well: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

It would be naïve to suggest that we don’t also occasionally do it.

Have you ever heard someone talking badly about another Christian?

Do your kids have to swallow a constant diet of negativity about folks at church? (Sometimes these kids grow up with a negative attitude about the church . . .)

We ought to be careful.

No one else in the world has more to be positive about than we do.

Everyone has faults, of course, but most of us have too many logs in our own eyes to worry about the speck in another believer’s eye.

Malice, slander, corrupt speech?

It just has no place in our vocabulary.