Saturday, June 9, 2012

Humbling Treasure

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, was this grace given, so that I might make clear to the nations the good news of the unsearchable treasures of Christ:  --Ephesians 3:8 (self translated) 
I have been pondering the question of humility vs. self-deprecation.  Psychological self-help books suggest that self-deprecation is damaging to one's ability to relate and grow.  It is founded on a humanistic ideal that all people are of utter worth so consequently, if you can't claim your intrinsic value, then you are putting your abilities under a barrel.  This is in opposition to the older Orthodox Christian belief that humanity is fallen and prone to being sin-filled.  Knowing our place in life seems key to our sense of who we are.  I'm not sure there is a substantial difference between humility and self-deprecation.  What differs is where you stand in relation to God.  If you accept the idea that you are a god - maker of your own world and success, then in 21st century developed nations to have humility (be self-deprecating) is to lose out on chances of gaining even more.  On the other hand, if you accept the idea that God is God, and you are simply a disciple or servant, you will view success differently.
The Apostle Paul had a solid sense of his place -- humble yet confident.  He came along after the crucifixion of Christ.  He was overseer of multiple persecutions and executions of early Christians, and then had an awakening.  In that awakening and succeeding transformation he was granted a significant perspective and grace to open the Gospel doors to the rest of the world.   Acutely aware of his past sins against God, Christ, and the fledgling church, he none the less knew that if the Gospel couldn't be spread outside the ingrown walls of Jewish Christianity the Gospel would die, and with it lose the unsearchable treasures of Christ that he had just recently experienced for himself first hand.

Having and knowing the unsearchable riches of Christ trump any success that can be acquired in this life.  Knowing the connections we hold with all the saints who have passed on before us; knowing they cheer for us, encourage, surround, and send us their prayers brings a deep sense of gratitude and humbling sense of order or place amongst them all.  Through Christ we are attached to the Living God, and attended by Christ, the angels, and all the saints.  This is a quite different world than the one we hear about on the news daily.  It is quite different indeed!

Thanks be to God, from whom all blessings flow.  Praise to you Lord Christ who joins us to a life larger than the small one we get preoccupied with living.  Have mercy for all our needs.  Amen.

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