Title: Dead voice and voice from the dead
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-7
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Not too long ago before joining the baseball team with Byundos, I was in a team called “rookies”. I was the starting catcher who also coached the team as well. As part of my coaching duty, I had to teach the players in my team and one day we got a new player whose physical talent was immediately visible. He had all the tools of a baseball player. Tall, strong arm, not so fast but he had a good swing that comes from good hip rotations. So other coaches and I were thinking of developing him to be our next starting pitcher for our team but as soon as we start working with that kid we soon began discovering a problem – he would not accept our corrections despite playing baseball for the first time.
His delivery when runners were on base was wrong, we’d correct him but he refuses to do so. He was forbidden to try curve balls to really work on locating his fastball but he refused to listen. He was told to be patient with a backup catcher as he is not as experienced as I am so there might be some past balls and dropped balls but out of his temper he took out his frustration to the backup catcher who in the secret cried. We told him that he needed to be a team player but he didn’t know what it meant and worse yet, he didn’t care.
He clearly had good talents – enough to become symbol of our team but in the end he didn’t develop to become one. If all the physical talents were there then what was missing from him? It was the attitude that prevented him from becoming the team’s ace. He got talent but refusal to be humble enough to listen stifled his growth.
In today’s passage Apostle Peter provides one tip to the youngsters after giving instructions to the older ones to be examples. Surprisingly, Apostle Peter doesn’t say “see the examples and learn” but instead do you notice how much emphasis there is on being “humble”? In three short verses, Apostle Peter hints at humility four times! What is up with the human beings, especially the “Young” people, that he emphasizes humility so much? Why wouldn’t he have just said “Listen” or “hear” or “go to the class rooms” (something little more direct) but instead said “be humble” (which is indirect)?
It is because humility acts like pain-killers when we have a headache. While it does not treat the root cause of the pain, at least it relieves the symptom. As in, humility alone will not save us from our dead-in-sin (we need gospel for that!) but at least it grants us the opportunity to hear Godly voice and temporarily restores correct life order that was marred after Adam and Eve’s sin.
1. To understand what else “humility” does for us let’s take a look at what Bonhoeffer (a 20th century German theologian) said in his book Ethics
“For Christian ethics, the mere possibility of knowing about good and evil is already a falling away from the origin. Living in the origin, human beings know nothing but God alone. They know other human beings, things, and themselves only in the unity of their knowledge of God; they know everything only in God, and God in all things. Knowledge about good and evil points to the prior disunion and estrangement from this origin … By understanding themselves according to their possibilities, namely, to be either good or evil, human beings come to see themselves as the origin of good and evil.”
After the original sin of Adam and Eve, a deadly force has entered into our lives. This force is so stealthy that most of our lives, we do not even see that it is there influencing us in every second of living moments. This force is so influential and stealthy that even just a little poke at it, we have the tendency to break out in anger or it absolutely crushes us that we crumble to the corner of our room sobbing. The deadly force’s name is pride.
Psalm 14:1 puts the finger on what’s on people’s mind upon committing sin from their prideful heart.
“The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
It is not that we do not acknowledge the existence and involvement of God in our lives but when it is convenient for us, we tend to turn blind eye to what God likes for us to do. It’s not that we do not know but it’s that we ignore – precisely because we see ourselves as the origin of good and evil and that we CAN determine ultimately what is good and evil apart from God. “That deliciousness of sin cannot be THAT bad for us, can it?”
Case in point, years ago I knew a church member who was on the fence about the whole faith thing. I kept conversing with that member to ensure that she stayed in faith. Then one day she suddenly decided she will denounce the faith. It came as a shock since during the conversation I had discovered that she knew more about the scripture than most other members in the church AND she was faithfully attending the church.
What had happened was this. She had begun dating a guy and he wasn’t a Christian. She was well aware of what church claims about non-Christian dating and lust issues. She didn’t like it and she had been flirting with the idea of leaving the church anyways so she thought she might as well leave the church. But then, it will still be on her conscience to merely just leave the church so she decided that she will leave the faith altogether so as to clear up her conscience of having sinned against God. She was in full awareness of God’s voice but in order to fit her convenience she decided that she will become the origin of good and evil. And according to her view, everything was O~~~k. It’s ok to have fun with non-Christians and accept their world and life views AND their term of physical intimacy.
Let’s face it, by nature we do not like to listen, precisely because we are prideful people and THAT is why humility is important. Humility, at least temporarily, allows us to open our ears and open our hearts to other people’s (including God’s) voices. It is precisely in suspending of our own pride that we are finally able to listen to the voice of God. That suspending action called “Humility” is the temporary human act to restore the origin of good and evil back to God and this is why Apostle Peter does not tell the young “listen” but “be humble” since listening will naturally follow “humility”.
2. Secondly, what is the benefit of humility? I mean surely being humble or being made humble do not feel all that great so what’s so great about it? There are at least two benefits.
First, by humbling ourselves, we are able to benefit from differing opinions. It makes us knowledgeable and flexible. When you are so hardened in your own world, you are not likely to listen to others and cannot possibly see things from other people’s point of view. And by listening perhaps you don’t have to repeat the mistakes that our older brothers and sisters have made in their life.
Second and perhaps bigger of the two for me is that it liberates us and allows us to experience freedom – freedom from the bondage and fear of how “others think of me”. This is another bondage that is so strong and stealthy that really controls our lives. How does humility work in a way that frees us from this? I have learned over the years that people will develop an opinion of me, no matter what.
Some people think I’m wonderful and fun while others think I’m scary and an idiot. Humility allows me to say “so what?” to both of them – only God knows who I really am. Humility allows me to accept people’s opinion as opinion. To the proud, other people’s opinions are often bad news that need to be changed. But by being able to accept their opinions as possible life lessons, I am able to accept and even enjoy what they have to say and still enjoy their company. I am also able to enjoy people’s opinion of me only because ultimately it is not what matters the most and it is not the factor that will declare my success or failure in my life.
Relating to this, there is a verse that does not seem to fit in this passage (not at a first glance anyways). Verse 7 says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Peter was talking about humility all this time and all of a sudden he squeezes in “anxiety” quite randomly. It is there to comfort you in case you are nervous about “letting go” of the control by humbling yourself. You don’t have to hold onto that image that you are holding up for others to see.
Peter is saying God’s opinion is the only thing that matters and therefore let go of the fear of being seen genuinely and honestly. One of the greatest fears of being humble is that humble person is seen as “weak” – so weak that everyone can step over him. Well, Peter says “don’t worry about it.” Whatever the consequence of being humble is, God will take care of you. Whatever fear may result as your dedication to be humble whether it is with your parents (and actually listen to them) or with your teachers and professors (regarding your grade and attitude in school) or with your pastors and friends with regards to your life, whatever it is, once you decide to be humble and attentive to other people’s voices, God will give life giving voice through them that you will thrive in God’s care.
3. So folks, I hope you will re-think about how you are going to live your life. If you decide to be teachable and attentive then voices from the dead (as in the voice from the past) will work to benefit your future but if you decide to become your own master then all the voices of the past (including Jesus’) simply become dead voice. I hope you will not waste the rich experiences of our elder brothers/sisters but make them your own by being humble enough to start listening.