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Humble Under the Hand of God - 1 Peter 5:1-7

Whether you’re putting up with the insults and slanders of those who oppose the way of Jesus, or whether you’re living with other followers of Jesus, Peter’s message is that your attitude should be one of thoroughgoing humility. Shepherds, tend the flock with humility, not with a domineering spirit. Younger sheep, be humble towards the shepherds, and don’t ignore their authority in your life. All of you, show this humility towards one another, since humility places you on God’s side, while pride reveals a basic opposition to God.

The heart of humility is a deferential attitude of mind and spirit. Humility is directed towards God, and expressed toward others. Expressions of humility include obedience, submission, and trust, and is sometimes shown through bodily postures like kneeling or bowing. Anti-humility (pride) is when you make too much of yourself, false humility is when you make too little, and humility is displayed when you accept your rightful place under God’s hand. Humility is a lifelong response that says to God: “not my will, but yours be done”.

1 Peter 5:1-7 gives us three examples of how this humility is lived out in the Christian community: a shepherd’s humility towards the sheep, a sheep’s humility towards the shepherd, and sheep’s humility towards other sheep.

First, a shepherd’s humility. A humble shepherd is one who serves the will of the Chief Shepherd, and exercises oversight God’s way, not his own way. A humble shepherd doesn’t lord it over the sheep as someone who is above them, but rather leads by example as one who is farther along the same path. At the same time, a shepherd’s authority is real because it is delegated to him by the Chief Shepherd, and so it isn’t prideful for the shepherd to exercise authority. What would be prideful would be for a shepherd to let the sheep lead themselves or to lead them according to his own ideas, rather than tending them according to the Chief Shepherd’s instructions.

Second, Peter turns to the sheep, and tells them to be subject to the shepherds. A sheep’s responsibility is to follow. A sheep who charts his own course isn’t humble; he’s usually a wolf snack. Such a sheep will tell himself that he’s just exercising independent judgment, but that’s not what the Chief Shepherd wants from him. The Chief Shepherd wants the sheep to follow the under-shepherds.

Third, the more general point: all sheep should clothe themselves in humility towards one another. Jesus gave a clear example of this by laying aside his teacher’s robe and clothing himself with a servants’ towel to wash his disciples’ feet, but the point is more broadly metaphorical: always be wearing an attitude of humility. Expect to learn something about godly living from your brothers and sisters, and submit your preferences and plans to one another. Consider others more important than yourself. Come to serve, not to be served.

To a certain mindset, this way of life makes no sense. The shepherd’s temptation is to drive the sheep from behind with a swift kick in the rear, issuing commands and threats rather than leading patiently by example and persuasion. For the sheep, it’s easy to remember times when fallible shepherds led them into brown pastures and beside muddy waters. The temptation for the sheep is to trust himself rather than submit to the shepherd. And it’s hard for us to be humble towards one another, because it’s easy for us to see ways that we are better or farther along than they are. Our temptation is to think that it’s better to be right in our pride than to be together in humility. We can all come up with a million different reasons why humility gets in the way and slows us down, and we all have fears and anxieties about what humility will cost us. We feel naked when we’re clothed in humility; we’d rather wear something else.

But God opposes pride, whether it’s found in persecutors outside the church, or in people within the church. Pride and God are enemies; humility and God are friends. The first step in humility is trusting God enough to humble yourself under His mighty hand. Humility only causes anxiety when you forget that God cares for you. So remember Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Remember that God cared for Him, raised Him to life, and exalted Him to the highest place. Remember that by faith, you are united to Christ. As you follow in His humble steps, you will share in His exaltation and His glory, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 by CJ Bowen