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The Supreme Virtue, Part II

31 January 2008

It has become plain to me over the last couple of years that humility is the supreme virtue. (I do not view love as a virtue, but rather as an orientation of the person…which happens to be lubricated and energized by humility.) Reading and re-reading the New Testament, the primacy of humility pops off the page more and more every time that, for example, I take a run through the Sermon on the Mount or Philippians or I Peter.

We may have given in to a scheme of the devil, I’m afraid, with our relentless focus on developing leaders, especially among our children. How many times have I taught my three boys to be good followers and humble servants of their friends and neighbors? Instead, I confess that my focus on leadership has probably distorted their view of what it means to follow Christ.

When it comes to discerning truth, I have found it necessary to *choose* to read things by authors whose reputations I think I already know (and therefore discount for their alleged heterodoxy). For example, I learned about Stanley Hauerwas from an article in Time or Newsweek a couple of years back and recoiled at what he was quoted to have said. But for some reason or another, I began to pick up a book or two here or there.

(I think part of it was a gentle push from my seminary profs at ACU over the last two years, most prominently John Willis and Trevor Thompson and Craig Churchill – and wander into them having laid aside my pet predispositions about various things. Through those guys, I learned about Wayne Meeks and Richard Hays and Margaret Mitchell, who have shown me a magnificent new vista, a broad, narrative perspective on the person Jesus that did not fit any of my earlier grids.)

Through Hauerwas, I discovered Willimon and Kenneson and Yoder, all of whom have taught me a great deal about what it means to follow Jesus in a culture like ours. And I have changed my mind about not a few things!

I don’t say this stuff to my credit, by the way. Why it took me 40 years of life before I decided to be teachable and coachable, I cannot now imagine. But now that I know less than I used to know, I am learning more than I ever have, if you know what I mean.

This all hit home tonight on the way home from Samuel’s basketball practice. He has been struggling with free throws all season, and it wasn’t until tonight that I realized he had never asked anyone to help him. He just thinks by sheer will power he can do it himself.

But what is the example we have from Jesus’ disciples, disciples in the truest sense? This: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Oh, for a clearer sense of what it means to be teachable, coachable, humble, inquisitive. In every phase of life, in every kind of relationship.


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