Humility, again (1 Peter 5:5-7)

small hand in large handPeter’s lone word to the young–be submissive to those who are older–segues into a general guideline regarding humility all around. It’s a delicate balance Peter wants to strike: on the one hand, social structures of his day gave older persons–those over 60–deference on account of their age; on the other, Christianity was in many respects a youth movement (Jesus’ earthly ministry happened while He was in His early 30s; the disciples would have been about that age, too, when the movement began). Were some of the young Turks in the church spoiling for recognition?

The instruction to submit kept established social mores in place–as was often the case when those who were teaching on what it meant to live out the kingdom each day addressed those in their care. But then Peter opens a door when he advocates the taking on of (clothe yourselves with) humility toward one another. That he would broaden the call for humility so that it touches each one suggests that social conventions are not entirely adequate in the realm where Jesus is Lord.

The apostle reminds readers of God’s view towards pride, and how God esteems the lowly. Indeed, God’s inclination toward giving grace to the humble reminds readers that all who have received grace are, by definition, humble–and so there is no good reason to be moving off that dime upon entrance to Christ’s kingdom. Humility among humans is exactly right; indeed, it is actually a hallmark of humanity that has been fashioned in the image of God.

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