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Rediscover Humility

• Greg Boyd

Jesus commanded His followers to love, and He commanded us not to judge. Yet the Christians of today are known outside of the Church as arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. What is wrong with this picture?! In this message, Greg shares three ideas on how we, who say we follow Jesus, can truly become the humble, serving, loving people that the Church is supposed to be.

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Greg was once approached by a very angry man who questioned Greg on “what spirit he was of”. Greg replied to him, “You’d kill me right now if you could, wouldn’t you?”, and the man didn’t deny it! He just kept staring angrily at Greg. This is how people respond when they’re challenged but still have an idol that they need to hold on to. It’s certainly not the loving response that Jesus asked us to have toward people…


Groups often form around these kinds of convictions, and they in turn reinforce each other’s idols because they grow to believe even more firmly that they are the right and righteous ones. The people in these groups get life from their beliefs, and from defending their convictions. In fact, if you look at the major conflicts in the world, you will find that it is precisely this that is going on behind the scenes. Clinging to idols, even if they’re well-intentioned beliefs, creates a strong “us versus them” mindset, which is not the mind of Christ.


The more strongly you hold on to convictions and try to get life from them, the more likely you will try to “squash” those who believe differently than you. And sadly, a lot of Christians get caught up in this “us/them” mindset. Christians get defensive, angry, even violent sometimes. And what makes it worse is that most Christians think that their conviction is God’s Truth, so they believe they have moral superiority over others, and therefore think they are always right – even as they try to impose their convictions on others who don’t agree with them. That is why the Christians of today are seen as arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. Why would people who are outside the Church want to come to the Church for anything?

But how do we change our ways? How can we become the people who Christ set us free to be?


1) Jesus’ death abolishes all “us/them” thinking! Paul said, “Christ’s love compels us, for we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded even Christ this way, we don’t do so any longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold all things have been made new.” Every obstacle that separated people from God has been removed by the death and resurrection of Christ, and therefore we are no longer to see people as the world see’s people. We are to see them through the “lens” of the cross. We are to see a person whom God loves, whom He died for, whom he has made new. There is no “us/them” thinking in the cross. There is one new humanity in Christ Jesus – no male or female, no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free… There is no place for us to think that we are the righteous ones.


2) We’re clearly told that we’re to cultivate the mind of Christ! “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing… and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.” This is the mindset we are to have: not clinging to righteousness, but emptying ourselves and becoming servants of humanity – even of our enemies. If God was willing to humble himself so much that he gave up his Godly authority and emptied himself, even dying in service to all humans, is it really too much for us to give up being prideful humans in order to become humble humans? If we really had the mind of Christ, there would be no way we would ever believe that we were better than someone else.


3) Christ abolishes all judgment! Our minds instinctively assess others. We tend to think it’s a little thing, but reserving the right to assess good and evil is the foundational sin of the Bible! It’s the foundational sin because it subverts the one thing which we were put here to do, and that is to love one another! Loving someone is simply ascribing unconditional worth to them at cost to ourselves – and we cannot do that when our minds are pointing out to us what’s wrong with them! But we are to “put on the mind of Christ”, which, on the cross of Calvary, revealed to us how far God is willing to go to ascribe worth to every person, and at what cost to Himself. How, then, can we say we follow Jesus while we stand in judgment of someone – devaluing them while ascribing worth to ourselves?!


We were told to “imitate Christ”, not just to believe that Jesus is our ticket to heaven after we die (as if that somehow makes us better than others anyway…). “Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as an offering and a sacrifice…” We are commanded not to judge, and we are commanded to love. Jesus hinted at one way to learn how to do this in Matthew 7, when he said, “Don’t judge, or you’re going to be judged! Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus is basically telling us to see our own sin as about a trillion times worse than the sins of others. This intentional shift in our thinking can help us to change our mindset – rather than maximizing the sins of others and minimizing our own, we learn to minimize the sins of others and maximize our own. This change in perspective helps us to actually become humble people as we learn to love others – no longer judging them, but instead ascribing unsurpassable worth to them.

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Topics: Humility, Judgment, Love

Sermon Series: Rediscover

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Focus Scripture:

  • Ephesians 5:1-2

    Imitate God, since you are the children he loves. Live in love as Christ also loved us. He gave his life for us as an offering and sacrifice...

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7 thoughts on “Rediscover Humility

  1. Peter says:

    The topic of this week’s message is again compelling to our growth as sons of God. More specifically Greg indicated (although not in as many words) our addiction to making judgements. Invariably these judgements place ‘ourself’ in a good light over and against that which is being judged.

    Like last week’s post, I am also drawn to a well known quote from Thomas Merton,

    “There is no substance under the things with which my False Self is clothed. I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world. As if I only could become visible when something visible covered my surface. I am hollow…and when my bandages are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness, emptiness and hollowness to tell me that I am my own mistake.”

    In terms of Merton’s quote, the judgements that we make concerning the lifestyle we live (we believe) adds substance to ourselves (or should that be our ‘self’ or in Merton’s term our ‘False Self’), this can be the job we do, the money we earn, the house we buy, the car we buy, the clothes we wear, the church we attend and the list goes on. This construct through those judgements we make all reflect who we are to ourselves and the world. However, if we ‘deconstruct’ this ‘False Self’ as Merton indicates…we remove the ‘bandages’…we take away the ‘importance’ of that house, that car etc and everything else that ‘makes us something’ we are left with nothing, there is a total ‘hollowness’ to our life.

    However, looking at it from a slightly different perspective, when we strip back our life to that ‘core’ we are left with an embryo or seed to our life that was given by God….it was us that ‘grew’ our life into something that it was never designed to become….that effectively is no ‘life’ at all.

    If we can talk in such terms, when we were in the mind of God, we were created out of love to be and become a unique child and ultimately a son of God….that effectively is what was ‘planted’ at the time of our conception. So when we have chosen to go our own way and become a ‘False Self’….not what God had created, we can through grace and salvation and the Spirit remove those things of the ‘False Self’ and return to our true self. This becomes true humility….the removal of a ‘proud’ exterior to the core of what God has created such that our lives reflect what Paul describes in Phil 2:3-8 & 13,

    “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…..for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

  2. Dave Pritchard says:


    I absolutely love your ‘invisible’ aka ‘hollow’ man, analogy based on Merton’s reflections. I remember being kind of freaked out as a kid by the old black & white classic film where the ‘Invisible Man’ played by Claud Rains – “Dr. Jack Griffin” is rendered invisible and insane by injecting an obscure and rather fictitious drug called “Monocaine”- Ha!

    While under its transparent influence the normally mild-mannered Dr. Jack turns psychotic and commits a series of heinous crimes only to come to his senses finally after being cornered in a burning barn and shot. I think the story adds a dramatic twist to the original H.G. Wells story where “invisibility”; aka – self-imposed isolation and concealment becomes synonymous with the nefarious character de-evolution of ‘Frodo’ from ‘Lord of the Rings’ where every time he compromises and chooses to render himself ‘invisible’ by putting on the supposed ‘Ring of Power’ to retain his anonymity; it is in essence draining him of his life and replacing it with a corrosive darkness that is cast in the service of evil.

    The anonymity we think we posses Online when surfing sites, or the shady business deals we might fall into or even that third slice of cheese cake gobbled down in secret, will all come to light –

    “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” – Luke 8:17

    But unlike the ‘Invisible Man’, when the bandages came off Jesus, his corporal reality was not only translucent (at times – Ha!) but gloriously transcendent – the ‘first fruits’ of a whole new created and beautifully redeemed order – “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive”.

  3. Tracy says:

    The last sermon I listened to a few weeks back was similar to this in that all seem to be in. There is no ‘out’. I agree that the new creation was inaugurated at the cross, and there is a call to become part of that. I don’t believe that everyone who walks the earth is part of that new creation. Not all are ‘In christ’. Yes, sin has been dealt with. It’s off the table. But it seems like Greg is saying that we are now all part of that new creation? The new creation is God’s kingdom which Christ began, and is going to one day cover the whole earth. The creation is still groaning….. it hasn’t happened that God has set all things to right yet. Where does faith in Christ come into this? Am i missing something here?

  4. James Moriarty says:

    @Tracy…. Do you think it’s your beliefs that classify you as “in Christ”? Was it that you uttered a particular set of words in the right order that placed you “In Christ”?

    I think Paul is pretty emphatic that we have nothing to do with our own salvation… that it was God in Christ doing the reconciling… moving us from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved son… that even the faith part of the grace/faith equation that saves us isn’t ours so we can’t boast…

    We don’t go from outside Christ to inside Christ… we go from inside Christ to discovery of what already is. I think that’s the process every person on earth is in… discovery. If we live and move and have our beings in him and he’s somehow holding it all together… how can anyone be separated from him if separation means space or distance? Paul calls it alienation of mind… the light is shining in and through the darkness. It’s the darkness that can’t comprehend the light.

    Watchman Nee once said, “Oh the folly of trying to enter a room you’re already in”

    Wrt your question where does faith in Christ come in… whose faith? If it’s out our feeble ability to hold on, we’re all in trouble. I’ve come to see that if Galatians 2:20 is properly translated it’s rendered… “and the life we now live we live by the faith of Christ”. That lines up with what Paul had just written… that it was no longer him who lived but Christ in him.

    I have a photograph of my wife helping our daughter take her first steps… it’s precious. In the photograph each of my daughters tiny little hands is holding on to one of my wife’s fingers with all her might… her concentration and determination visible on her adorable chubby face. Just one of her mom’s fingers was all she could manage to grab ahold of. While she was squeezing my wife fingers as tightly as she could, her moms much larger hands were gently but firmly holding onto our daughters entire hand… our daughters grip on her moms fingers was itself tightly held within her moms grip. That’s how I see our feeble faith… we’re designed for it, and we hold on, but it’s safely within his grip on our grip and he won’t let go.

    When she was first born and placed into an incubator I never left her side… I put my index finger into the palm of her hand… just minutes after she was born and do you know what she did? She grabbed onto my finger with a remarkably strong grip. It’s called the palmar grasp reflex. I think when people hear the true gospel… the astonishingly good news of what was unconditionally done to us and for us… we’re designed with a kind of spiritual palmar grasp reflex… we grab onto the good news. It’s a design feature. Even so, our ability to grab on and hold isn’t ultimately decisive because, by analogy, our father won’t let us go…

    When my daughter eventually let go of my wife hand from fatigue… my wife wouldn’t let go of her.

    In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul says that it’s as though God was making an appeal to the cosmos through us, as His ambassadors to be what in fact they already were… reconciled to a God who no longer held their sins against them. We know something about every soul on earth that most of them don’t know… and once we tell them the true unconditional gospel… whether the palmar grasp reflex kicks in immediately or later isn’t up to us… God has his hands on them and he won’t let go.

  5. Karen says:

    This is a question that I’ve had for a long time. I agree that judgement and love are antithetical, but that being so, why does God feel the need to judge us?

    The New Testament is filled with references to the “final” judgment. How is this reconciled with Greg’s statements that judgment and love are antithetical?

    (Also, I guess as an ancillary question, why, if Jesus’ death took away our sins and made us clean, why is there even a need to be judged again at the end of life?)

    Thank you in advance for your response. I have been wrestling with the first issue for a few years and haven’t gotten a satisfactory resolution.

    1. Amanda Churchill says:


      Thanks for your question!

      I think what is tripping you up is that you are framing your question in a legal way, where God is the judge and we are the defendants, and the judge imposes sentences on people as punishment for sinning. But while there are some legal metaphors in Scripture, the primary way the Bible construes the punishment for sin is not legal, but rather relational (i.e., covenantal) and organic. God’s “judgment” is simply the destructive consequences that are intrinsic to sin. God has set the world up such that is functions in a natural cause-and-effect manner.

      For example, James says: “For each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

      See the natural progression? If we give into desires, we “conceive” our evil desires, which gives “birth” to sin, which grows up to give birth to “death” (i.e., negative consequences). So God doesn’t need to IMPOSE a death sentence on anyway like a judge in a court of law. Sin naturally and organically brings about death when it “grows up.” So if a person will not trust in Christ and have their sin and its death consequences cancelled, God has no choice but to allow their sin to run its course – and this organic process is what the Bible calls God’s “judgment.”

      Hope that helps!

  6. James Moriarty says:

    People can certainly string scriptures together that paint a disturbing picture of the end. There’s a great book I highly recommend by Brad Jersak. It’s called “Her Gates will never be shut”. It deals with your questions in a deeply scholarly yet approachable style, similar to Greg Boyd.

    Wrt judgement… as believers we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ which I think is better rendered the “reward seat”. The scriptures teach that it’s going to be a moment in time that we each have with Jesus where, I think, we will be shown all the things that He prepared for us to walk in. It’s where we’ll give account for how we lived our lives. That there will be tears in that moment and a sense of loss should not come as a surprise but be clear that what’s hanging in the balance isn’t heaven or hell but reward.

    Do we live in such a way that Jesus will receive His full reward… as much as we can give back to Him from love, gratitude and with thanksgiving for all He suffered and did for us?

    The Gospels teach us that all judgment was given to Jesus… that the Father judges no one. One interpretation of John 12:32 is that when Jesus was lifted up, he would draw all judgement to himself… the word “men” isn’t in any of the greek manuscripts and the subject of the passage is judgment. We also know from the Apostle Paul that the Father no longer holds trespasses against any of us that some of the last words of the person we will stand before in the end were “Father forgive them”.


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