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Sunday, May 8, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Peter 5:1–14
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (NRSV)
Humility and shame, pride and pridefulness: these are related emotions that we can pay careful attention to. It’s important to distinguish between them. We see the same root in the words humility and humiliation. Humiliation is more like shame, but when Peter calls us to humility, he’s calling us to a wholesome humility that connects us with others.
Wholesome humility is the awareness that I am not the center of everything; my needs are not greater than the needs of others; my struggles and shortcomings are not greater than those of other people. Humility holds us in a balanced place, considering our strengths and weaknesses to be human experiences, much like the experiences of all humans. “Your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering,” Peter writes.
While shame diminishes us, humility is grounded in honoring all people as image-bearers of God’s image, including yourself. Humility sees us as equals, and suffering draws forth compassion equally for others and for yourself.
Similarly, there is a kind of pride that is arrogant (pridefulness), and there is a kind of pride that is merely self-respect. Pridefulness imagines we are better than others, while self-respectful pride remembers that we are equally image-bearers of a beautiful God. So, as we seek to follow Peter’s advice, remember to make the distinctions between words that build up and words that tear down.
God of all grace, you have created and called me. Restore, support, strengthen, and establish me—proud but not prideful, humble but not ashamed. Help me to remember that I bear your divine image, equally with all others. Amen.
Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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