Tag Archives: humility

Out of Disappointment Comes Determination

People of conscience and thoughtfulness in both political parties are at a crossroads. The events of January 6th and the recent policies of the new administration are troubling many. The legacy of the previous administration was deeply tarnished and the promises of unity and amicable dialogue of the new folks in Washington are remain unfulfilled. Power and punishment, rancor and reaction dominate the public square and there is utter disregard for any fiscal restraint.

Out of the deep disappointment of this moment is an opportunity for a new determination for people that care about the common good and want all Americans engaged in helping their neighbors flourish. Beginning the week of April 5, I will introduce a nine-part series, “The Way Forward.” I will outline pathways of progress on the most challenging issues of our time. Until then, the focus of this essay and the two that will follow will be on the changes in us that provide the soil from which creativity and innovation thrive.

Here are seven “decide ahead of time” choices that help us face the world with confidence and humility, hope and courage.

  • First, we stop lying to ourselves. We must own the areas of self-deceit that capture our hearts and minds. 
  • Second, with our new found humility, we now own our personal choices and get the help we need so that any lingering victim-hood recedes and is replaced by empowerment.
  • Third, while we engage in the political process, we realize that we do not elect messiahs. Some emotional/mental distance from political soundbites will improve our health.
  • Fourth, we choose pathways that help us befriend people very different from ourselves and learn from their sufferings and triumphs.
  • Fifth, we own our historical narratives – all of them. We reject nostalgia and cynicism and recognize the good and the evil in human hearts and social systems.
  • Sixth, we do not wait for government programs to help others in need. Our churches, daily work, local charities, and many other venues offer ways of concretely changing lives.
  • Seventh and supremely, we must return to God in awe and reverence and stop making ourselves the center of the universe. When we follow the way of Christ – a life of service that will include suffering infused with love and hope – we find all our best and deepest longings fulfilled.

Will we spend less time scrolling and more time praying? Will we stop reacting with clenched fists and begin responding with open hands? It all begins with each of us and the choices we make each day.

A Time for Repentance and Reflection

In the wake of the events following the murder of George Floyd, Made to Flourish issues the following statement. I think it is a clear, fair, and wise expression and I hope you will pass it on.

We join a chorus of voices in the unequivocal condemnation of the brutal killing of George Floyd, which followed the recent tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Of course, these are only the most recent examples among the long scourge of institutional and systemic racism and brutality against black and brown brothers and sisters who bear God’s image. We lament in the fullest biblical sense the injustice that has been perpetrated towards people of color which events like the killing of George Floyd continue to expose.

Above all, our righteous God is angered by injustice. And because the church is the visible representation of his voice and work in our world—the body of Christ—the church has a responsibility to offer prophetic critique and model a new way forward. Many churches have understood this calling, especially among our African American brothers and sisters. For many others, there is much work that needs to be done, undergirded by humble listening and sincere repentance. Corporately, we confess not only our sins of commission, in ways that the church has been complicit in racism, but also our sins of omission, as we have not loved justice and sought change that is consistent with God’s character and will.

As an organization, we exist to empower pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. Safe to say, our communities are not flourishing, and they haven’t been even long before the unrest of these past few weeks. Why? In part, we believe that the church has not been all that it is called to be in society. We say this not merely as a critique, but in humility, realizing that we have not embraced the totality of God’s mission in our world, the reconciliation of all things to himself, which entails reconciliation to one another.

While there are many ways to frame our current moment, one could say that our current crisis is a crisis of work, vocation, and economics. How will the people of God respond and live in their work environments? Will city government workers seek to build bridges in their communities? Will police chiefs and departments continue to inspect every system and incentive that leads to injustice? Will workers in unions not only protect their own but also embrace accountability? Will pastors and churches seek unity and partnerships, first among themselves, and also among the many non-profit, governmental, and for-profit companies engaging in redemptive work in our cities? Will each individual recognize and act on their responsibility to seek the common good of all in their community?

And of course, economics. Much has been written on the racial wealth disparities in our country, and how they undergird many of the challenges we face in our communities. The causes are myriad, some as old as the founding of our country. But how might the church embrace and call for expanding economic opportunity, rooting out bias in hiring and promoting, support for those looking for jobs, expanding access to social and financial capital, and calling for equal pay for equal work? In the model of sphere sovereignty, the institutional church is not always or even usually the final actor. But the scattered church, followers of Jesus deployed in every sphere of society, bring the aroma of Christ wherever they work.

We long for churches, alongside so many other important initiatives, to embrace the integration of faith, with work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. And we need to hear your stories of creative response and engagement. God’s Spirit is not done with his church. Through repentance and in humility, the church plays a central role in God’s redemptive plan, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We end by praying for justice in our communities, that God’s justice would be made known in our cities where there has been rampant injustice. We pray for peace, not merely the absence of conflict, but the holistic flourishing of our communities under the reign of God. We pray for conviction in the face of our apathy and the seeming entropy of our concern. And we pray for hope, among what seems like a hopeless situation. Our God is more than able.

“And now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Choosing a Divergent Path: Wisdom in a World Gone Mad

We are inundated with loud voices clamoring for emotional reactions. In contrast, followers of Jesus are invited to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and choose loving obedience. Let’s take time to still our hearts, listen deeply, and love wisely.

We do not live in the best or worst of times…but in the most instantaneous information moment of history. Our conflicts are not new, but much more immediate and our responses are often unreflective. We can shun vulgarity. We can choose intercession for those who disagree. And we can recognize that power itself is an addiction affecting every part of the political spectrum. 

Forgiveness often sparks revival in persons and communities. Without pretending about our real pain or excusing transgression, what if we let go of the rap sheet that we keep against ourselves and others and truly forgive? And when we bless those who frustrate us most, we are liberated, and a new future opens to us.

An antidote for our epidemic and anger: In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we can meet every insult with blessing, every denial of truth with love and truth, arrogance with humility, and intolerance with civil discourse. And let’s respond to emotionalism and incipient Orwellian controls with careful thought and affirmation of liberty rooted in virtue. Systemic issues of class, gender, and race must be exposed…and overcome with love, relationships, and wisdom. Protest is one step…and practical, sacrificial action for others moves our vision of shalom forward. This is more than being nice and it is not passive. Living in the opposite spirit of our age of insults and vulgarity is a courageous spiritual posture. 

Hope for Peace

Peace among nations is a noble goal worth pursuing. It is also impossible without the other facets of peace being in place. Treaties are mere scraps of paper without transformation of hearts and minds. As we pray for our leaders and for concord among all cultures, here are some pathways to peace essential for human flourishing:

Personal peace with God and oneself. Conflicted, guilty and wounded hearts are underneath so much pathological activity and strife. This peace comes when individuals are reconciled to God and with their own pasts.

Peace among families. In 1967, Neil Diamond wrote and recorded a powerful song, Husbands and Wives, containing these words, “It’s my belief/pride is the chief/cause of the decline /in the numbers of husbands and wives.” It is time for spouses to decide ahead of time that they will remain faithful in body and spirt to their partners and their children.

Peace within and among churches. The local church is Jesus’ Plan A for his mission and the hope of the world…and all too often a place of discord and power struggles. May the faith, hope and love of the Gospel bring humility and mutual respect among all members.

Peace among diverse classes and cultures, educational backgrounds and ethnicities. Global ideals are only as strong as their local applications. When we make friends across classes and cultures and work for the common good, there is a ripple effect that becomes influential across the street and around the world.

And the key to all these facets of peace? A decision on the apart of at least 2 people to think of God’s glory and the good of others before themselves. In other words, letting love and humility, courage and wisdom win out over ambition and ego.

May this Advent find all of us at peace with Christ and fostering peace in our families and neighborhoods. We do not need the State house, the Beltway or the UN to lead the way – it begins in our hearts and homes.