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: 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; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
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….”
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (NIV)
Humility is the consummate virtue of the believer in Jesus. Apart from humility there is only a lack of authenticity and integrity. With humility there is a recognition of our need for God’s grace, guidance, and peace. Humility opens to us the wide vistas of God’s love and mercy.
A humble spirit:
- Makes leadership both possible and bearable (God is in control, not us).
- Helps relieve the anxious worries that wash over us (God cares for us).
- Enables us to resist evil and remain strong in faith (God protects us).
- Fortifies us to remain steady through suffering (God comforts us).
Genuine spiritual humility places us securely in the merciful arms of God. Furthermore, humility and meekness are what this old fallen world needs, as well, and to which we must reinforce in all our church leadership appointments, national and local political elections, and work staff hires. An abundance of smarts and grit cannot compensate for a lack of humility. God is always in control, and so, syncing our lives with divine providence and care will enable us to be better off.
Yet, humility is one of the hardest virtues to practice because it requires that we willingly put aside pride, ego, and personal agendas to embrace God’s agenda:
God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! (Matthew 5:3, CEV)
Jesus said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom. (Matthew 18:3, ERV)
Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, CEB)
To be a humble leader means to have the intention, focus, and action of seeking God’s will and way in everything. Then, to have the courage to lead others in God’s direction despite resistance and opposition from those who want to follow a different path.
Therefore, our task as spiritual leaders is to pursue hard after God’s direction rather than relying solely upon our base instincts, pragmatic desires, and personal views. Humility provides us a radical openness to God. A meek and gentle spirit enables us to develop an ever-deepening awareness of where God is leading. The Lord is up to something and has plans for our world, our locales, and our faith communities.
We also need to recognize that not everyone is open to God. If our focus is primarily on molding a group of people to be what we want them to be, then we may have become closed to what God wants. This closed spirit comes out in a couple of different ways:
- Maintaining tradition at all costs. Living with uncertainty and ambiguity is too much for some leaders, so they stick close to the status quo. Like Abraham, however, we are called to move and change without always knowing where we are going. (Genesis 12:1-5)
- Getting rid of tradition like there is no tomorrow. To get what they want some leaders focus solely on their own needs and desires without considering those they are called to lead. Like Timothy, we are to hold onto the great deposit of doctrine and heritage given to us and not always be looking for the next new thing to turn things around. (1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13-14)
Humility-based leadership continually consults the divine will and others’ wisdom in a concerted effort to be collaboratively open to God. A humble spirit enables and empowers leaders:
- To lead from a position of faith, not fear.
- To seek divine help and resources through a posture of listening.
- To practice love in all things to all persons.
- To make prayer and discernment the foundation of planning.
- To read Holy Scripture as if life depended on it.
- To consult and collaborate with others who are like-minded.
- To honor and respect tradition while holding it with open hands, not closed fists.
If we cultivate a humble attitude and a deep openness to God, along with a determined readiness to move people lovingly and graciously in God’s direction, then amazing things can happen. Let our prayer together be this:
I am yours, wise God, no matter where you call me to go, what you call me to do, and how you call me to be. I will seek your will and way as I lead others to do the same through Jesus Christ our Lord in the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit. Amen.