“…but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”
One of the challenges that humanity has faced over and over again is the idea that “I am right and you are wrong.” Along with this idea, is the implicit notion that if I have the conviction that I am right, that means that in some way I am better than others. Even in the Bible, we find evidence of early Christians feeling they were right and superior than others.
I wonder if that is the reason why the apostle Paul felt that it was important to write to his audience: “I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think” (Romans 12:3 NRSV). Not only that, but in Paul’s attempt to call for unity the Church in Philippi, he also said: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NRSV).
Currently, there is no doubt that our nation is divided, which is reflected even within the Church. We have all these labels for one another: conservative, traditionalist, moderate, centrist, liberal, progressive, etc. Next to these labels, there are others labels that intensify our division: republican, democrat, libertarian, independent, etc. If we add the different identities, we all have, the gap keeps growing: First Nation’s People (Native Americans), Black, Latinx, White, Asian, etc. The list does not end here, but hopefully this can give us the picture of the complexity of our God’s given humanity in relation to the Humanity’s social constructs.
In light of this reality, I am convinced that the principles of Cultural Humility can be helpful as we find ourselves in a crossroads as Christians in a divided world. Ongoing critical self-reflection that leads to repentance should be a nonnegotiable among Christians leaders—among disciples of Christ. Critical self-reflections is especially important as we think about the ways we treat the oppressed in our midst and people different from ourselves.
Paul’s statement when trying to unify the church in Philipi mentioned earlier, has helped me as a biblical and theological reference to connect with the second principle of Cultural Humility: “Challenge Power Imbalances for the Development of Authentic Partnerships.” This principle is not only about equity and equality; it also encourages to go the extra mile in all our interactions with other cultures. We then consider the other as better than ourselves. The reason we consider others better than ourselves is because we approach others, especially others who look different from me, think different from me, and perhaps understand God and the Christian life different from me, affirming the Imago Dei (God’s image) within them first.
The second Cultural Humility principle should lead us to interrogate ourselves in regard to the power or influence we might have over others. This power and influence can be given to us because of a professional, political, leadership position or social position. This power and influence we might have inherited. In any case, the invitation is for us to analyze our current relationships, identify the power and influence we might hold, and then ask ourselves how we are using this power and influence. Even more significantly, we should ask ourselves (and others) how others perceive how we use the power and influence we hold.
The truth is that when we fail to acknowledge the power and influence, we might have over others, without noticing, we end up misusing or even abusing this power and influence. For that reason, adopting a posture, in which we consider others as better than ourselves, allows us to better use this power and influence and develop authentic relationships that reflect equity and equality.
As we prepare to a new season in our country, may we consider practicing this principle. May we consider adopting Jesus’ humble posture as we interact with one another. May we try to learn from those who don’t agree with us. May we try to learn from those I might even see as my enemy. May we try to see God’s image in the other in all my interactions.
2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11)
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Ismael, follow this link: https://heritagedistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/