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  • Writer's pictureRenata Joseph

Forgiveness: Humility or Humiliation?

I've been meditating recently on the division that is so rife in the church. On a global scale, there are divisions between Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and a myriad denominations. On the political scene, between conservative and liberal Christians. In the local church, maybe the lines are drawn along two sides of an issue, maybe people just have history together that hasn't been resolved. People disagree, they've been hurt and instead of reconciliation, there is distance and distrust.

In recent conversations with young people, they've talked about the hypocrisy they experience when the church merely gives lip-service to unity. They hear the gossip, feel the icy greetings; what that communicates is that church is not safe.

I keep returning to Philippians. Paul doesn't let the church off the hook when they have disagreements or don't see eye to eye.

Philippians 2:1-2

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,

if any comfort from his love,

if any common sharing in the Spirit,

if any tenderness and compassion,

2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love,

being one in spirit and of one mind.

"Being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind." That's a tall order and one we frequently fall short of. I don't think being like-minded means we have to have the same opinions. Rather it means that unity and love supersede those things that divide us. Do we allow our differences and hurts to turn our brothers and sisters into "the enemy?" Or do we allow the Spirit to work in us to reconcile?

Philippians 2:3-4

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

People often mistake humility for humiliation. The difference I see between the two is whether someone is empowered or ashamed. Choosing to humble oneself is a decision based on that person knowing their worth, knowing their strength, and willingly laying it down in service to others. Humiliation is when someone's worth is stripped by someone else.

Choosing to reconcile out of humility is an act of strength. Being coerced into "making peace," through fear of humiliation or retaliation, is abuse. God does not want or expect us to be humiliated or shamed. He asks us to know our worth, recognize the spiritual wealth we have access to, and choose unity over being right or getting revenge.

So often young people are looking for people who will walk with them through life's challenges, but what they see is older people too stubborn or afraid to walk in humility. They see elders and leaders speaking one way and living another. Will we, as the older generation, do the work to become humble advisors, leading not just in word but in action? The next generation is watching and the decision is ours.

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