In the beatitudes Jesus says: "Blessed are the humble for they shall inherit the earth." To be humble in Jesus' day was either an honour or a shame. There were those who because of their status, position or power were honoured, for example—religious leaders, political leaders, the rich. There were others—the poor, the lame, the shepherds, who because of their health, position or occupation were shamed. In the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus turns this world upside-down. In some translations we see the word happy replacing blessed, however, a more accurate translation of blessed is honoured. In God’s reign, the poor, the meek and the humble are honoured. Jesus overturns humanity's values and establishes new relationships. During the season of Christmas, we will see this lived out in a practical way as shepherds (shamed by their society) are given the place of honour
In the rule of St. Benedict which establishes a humble lifestyle in a community who live, work and pray together we see five levels of humility—our relationship with the divine, our relationship with those who have an official role in our lives, our attitudes about ourselves, our attitude towards the circumstances in our lives, and our actions and attitudes towards others. The current problems we face in society show us that we need to cultivate new attitudes. We are faced with a daunting task as we deal with arrogance and pride in our world. As Michelle Obama said in the run-up to the presidential elections – we do not join those others in their arrogance and pride, we are called as people of faith to present a different attitude. When faced with a bully she said we do not stoop to their level; when they go low, she said we go higher. Our attitude should be that of humility. How the world would change if we lived this attitude every day. How our political world would change if we adopted this attitude. How our business world would change if we adopted this attitude. How our religious world would change if we adopted this attitude.
Sadly, there appears to be a pattern in our world at the moment to do the opposite of this in all these areas. The increase of violence in language, action, and posture is a saddening reality. In a couple of weeks, we move through a season that has its roots in the birth of a baby—a baby who came into the world to tell us to live by another reality with different attitudes. In this baby many have experienced the divine. In this baby’s birth many have experienced another reality. Through a relationship with this baby many have lived a life that has changed their attitude towards the world and so changed that world. May we all be honoured as we seek to live lives shaped by the powerful attitude of humility. This is something we can be proud of.
The Right Reverend Logan McMenamie is the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Tim,es Colonist on Saturday, December 22nd 2018
Photo: From the Collection " Sacred Art " Series 8. Oilette postcard of three shepherds praying before the baby Jesus. " Glory, glory, in the highest, Unto God, and peace on earth; To all nations joyful bring we Tidings glad of Jesus ' birth. " (Courtesy of Wikimedia)