Humility as Supreme Virtue

Last week I had the privilege of “guest lecturing” in a comparative religion class of (mostly) seniors at Squalicum High School here in Bellingham. The class, taught by Squalicum’s basketball coach Dave Dickson, was a great opportunity to outline for these young adults what evangelical Christians believe.

While the questions were many, one stands out among the rest: “Mr. Pohlman, what would you say is the biggest problem humans have because of sin?” It didn’t take me long to respond with the following: “Narcissism.” In other words, I explained to the students how our sin has left us with an out-of-control preoccupation with self. But I also used this as an opportunity to say how the gospel radically deals with this virus of self-love by moving our affections Godward. Because of God’s grace we are free from the idol of self and empowered to give our lives in sacrificial service to God and people.

This, of course, is just another way of saying that when the gospel meets us, it humbles us.

In his excellent book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and DoxologyBurk Parsons (via John Calvin) underscores the importance of humility and how we are helped in this through “the seeming foolishness of preaching”:

Humility is the supreme virtue according to Calvin, not only in attitude but in all of life. The Christian’s humility should shine forth into the pompous darkness of this world. It is neither our eloquence nor our brilliance that directs men to God; rather, it is God who directs men to Himself through the seeming foolishness of preaching. Consequently, humility should conquer our minds and transform our hearts, arising from our study of God’s majesty in His majestic Word.

Praying that God’s expositors, as well as those of us in the pews (or chairs), would be appropriately humbled this week as God’s majesty and majestic Word go forth.

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