The gospel is wonderfully welcoming.
Jesus meets all sorts of sinners with open arms with open arms: the tax collector? Door is open. The sexually promiscuous? There is grace for you. The idolater? You can come too. To all these and more, Jesus says to come and find forgiveness and new birth. Even further, everyone stands on equal footing at the cross. Those who were born into a church culture and those who never darkened the doors of one are all sinners, deserving of judgment, but can find mercy and grace with Jesus. There is room for us all, no matter what our pasts hold. Grace is available to everyone, save one:
Now there is a certain irony here because if a person is infected with pride they can still fall into the open arms of Jesus, but in order to do so, they must be cognizant of that pride. See, it’s one thing to throw yourself on the mercy of God because you have seen the pride in your heart; it’s another thing to never come to Jesus because you are too proud to admit that you need to do so. In other words, there is no grace for the proud not because God is holding it back, but because the truly proud do not see their need of grace and therefore never ask for it. Not really.
But pride is tricky. It’s tricky in the sense that it grows and festers and spreads through our hearts almost imperceptibly. But it’s also tricky in the sense that pride can masquerade as responsibility and self-reliance, which are two qualities that are highly prized in our culture. It’s difficult, then, to not only see pride in our own hearts, but then to truly turn from it over and over again. But this is exactly what we are commanded to do:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Because pride is such a tricky thing, and humility like it, we might be tempted to just sit around and bemoan the fact that we are proud and hope that we will become more humble. But Peter writes something different – he tells us to go on the offensive. He commands us, in fact. We are to “humble ourselves.”
But again, that feels a little tricky doesn’t it? It’s tricky because humility, like pride, is also creeping but in the opposite way. The moment you think of yourself as humble then you stand in danger of nullifying the virtue because you stand on the edge of, ironically, finding pride in your humility!
Like most things, though, this doesn’t have to be that complicated. There are all kinds of ways we can actively humble ourselves:
We can apologize immediately, without justification, when we wrong someone.
We can admit fully when we have made a mistake at work or at home.
We can ask someone a question even with we might look foolish for not knowing the answer.
These are simple ways that we can actively humble ourselves and fight back the insidious sin of pride. But there’s one more way, and Peter links it for us in the verses above. He commands us to humble ourselves, but then goes on to tell us that we should cast all our cares on God because He cares for us. Here again we find another simple, accessible, and actionable way to humble ourselves – we do it through real, honest, needful prayer.
Think of it like this: You are very sick. So sick, in fact, that you cannot get out of bed. You cannot fix your own chicken soup or get your own crackers. You can’t even get to the TV remote if it’s not right beside you. You have no other choice, once you recognize the frailty of your condition, but to cast your burdens upon another. That’s an incredibly humbling thing by its very nature. And the amazing thing is that the one who is need is simultaneously humbling themselves and receiving benefit from doing so.
When we approach the throne of grace, it’s good and right that we come there with our needs. We should not hold any of them back even if they seem trivial. We should bring them to God, asking for His help and intervention. And when we do, we can recognize that we are both honoring Him as the provider of all our needs and humbling ourselves in the very act of asking.
Humility is closer than you might think. It’s found on our knees.