This past Sunday, I preached on 1 Peter 5:1-7 and, in doing so, have been wrestling with three little words. Just in case you think that a few words don’t make a difference, allow me to share a few examples where one or two words in a sentence can change the implications of a sentence.
- “That didn’t hurt…too much.”
- “You are a pretty good player…for a girl.”
- “I will repay you…someday.”
Just by adding a word or two, the meaning of what is being said takes on a different nuance.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up….” 1 Peter 5:6
Peter’s words, at least initially, are straightforward: Place yourself under God’s authority for the benefit of others and God will elevate your standing in the eyes of others. It is easy to acknowledge the wisdom of Peter’s command to humble ourselves knowing that God will bless us for our humility. And while we may struggle to live out this admonition, we at least appreciate its truth. Then we come to those three little words.
“…in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6
It is in the fog of this indefinite prepositional phrase that my struggle begins. Whether your Bible says ‘in due time’ or ‘at the proper time’, the implication is the same: God has a time and a schedule for all things that may or, more likely, may not coincide with our schedules. Does anyone beside God know the boundaries of ‘due time’? Does it last an hour, a day, a month, or a decade? I find myself wrestling with the thought that I can humble myself for a definite amount of time if I know the duration but bristle at the same command if it requires an indefinite amount of time.
My problem is that I want to be in control; I want to define what amounts to ‘due time’. My difficulty with the last three words contradicts the essential truth of the first thirteen words. Ultimately I cannot humble myself under God’s mighty hand if I don’t allow God the prerogative to act authoritatively over my schedule. As the adage goes, “Either Christ is Lord over all or He is not Lord at all”. Perhaps, for me, humility begins when I serve others with no strings attached: I need to follow the Bible’s direction with no expectations of recompense or reprieve.
These three words highlight the difference between doing and being. Acting in humility can take many forms: scrubbing toilets, listening to uninformed opinions without offering correction, letting the other guy have the right of way, doing your job even when others are not doing theirs, taking a turn in the church nursery or taking an interest in something you have no interest in to spend time with a neighbor. Having genuine humility involves accomplishing any number of these things any number of times for the duration God desires.
Three little words helped me to see that there is a difference between what I am willing to do once for others and what I am willing to be indefinitely for God. I want to be humble…for the most part.