I had a less than awesome moment last week. I accused my neighbor of stealing my dog. I even filed a police report because I was so convinced that a block away lived a family who were nothing but hard-hearted dog stealers. Three neighbors had told me that the people in the green house had Duke. They were sure that the dognappers had obtained Duke around the time we lost him. I’d gone to the green house, asked the accused if they had our dog, which they denied. I didn’t get to see the dog, but I was sure he was ours. After speaking with a fourth police officer, who advised me to camp out in the backyard and steal Duke back, I finally went to the house prepared to threaten legal action.
That’s when I saw the dog. The people in the green house were right. He wasn’t Duke. The dog stared at me, judging me, along with the five kids who lived there and loved their non-Duke dog.
I thanked them for their time and vowed never to walk in my neighborhood again.
When I called to cancel the police report, I struggled to fully divulge the details of my visit with the dognappers. I was embarrassed. I’d accused these people of stealing, and I’d been wrong. I was ashamed to admit that I’d made a big mistake.
My dialogue with my neighbors would have been so different if I’d asked to see the dog before calling the police. But, my mode of operation doesn’t leave a lot of room for humility or patience.
When I have an idea, I go for it with everything in me.
Humility is not a friend I spend much time with. We’re more like acquaintances or pen pals. I am familiar with Humility’s mantra for living, and we have agreed to disagree.
There wouldn’t be a problem if Humility didn’t require that I admit I’m an expert on nothing.
I like winning. I like speaking authoritatively on things I don’t know how to explain or words I don’t even know how to spell. I don’t offer suggestions, I give dogmas.
Many of us feel more of a companionship with Pride than we do with Humility. Pride and I often carpool to church.
We cling to a sense of certitude, assuming the dog is ours. We love to hold ideas as if they are idols. We want our ideas to win. Politics and religion represent the heart of such a mindset: if I’m right, then you’re wrong. If you win, then I lose. When we have a strong opinion, we tornado through relationships and our extended community, consuming anything necessary to protect what we think is right.
In Christianity, we feel there’s so much at stake with our ideas that we fight even harder and scream even louder to ensure that our ideas win. Maybe we scream loudly because we want God to agree with our side. God is the God of my ideas on Reformed theology. God is the God of my ideas on same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood.
God becomes the rope we use in our pride-driven game of tug-of-war.
We yell to everyone that the dog belongs in our backyard.
Of course there are things we should fight for; issues we should press and ideals we should never set aside. But in the midst of a war-torn culture (and a war-torn Body of Christ), we are desperate for humility.
Humility is the discipline of realizing that maybe possibly I should consider that there’s a chance I might not know everything or I might not be as doggedly right as I think I am.
Humility is thinking that maybe the dog in the backyard isn’t mine. Maybe I visit the people in the green house before calling PETA and a lawyer.
Humility asks two questions that are not mutually exclusive: “What if I’m wrong?” and “What if you’re right?”
These questions keep us from obsessively staking out the neighbor’s backyard and stealing a dog we think belongs to us. These questions keep us reading the Bible with an open mind, keep us in a position of learning, help us remember we will know more in ten years than we know today. We’re on a journey. This journey is shaped by the constant movement of the Spirit in our hearts.
But these questions about right and wrong still don’t get to the heart of the issue. What does humility look like in the Kingdom of God?
I think humility is less about how we approach ideas and more about how we approach people.
Humility provides a lens through which we rightly see those who are also created. Humility helps us celebrate instead of scrutinize. Humility teaches us to value people before we dissect approaches to morality.
What if we were less concerned about protecting our ideas and more concerned with the actual people with whom we disagree? How would our dialogue change if we asked to see the dog before we called the police? What if we loved the families in the green houses, the people we’re convinced are destroying what we love and stealing what we value?
Humility is the act of moving toward the other in love. Certitude will never reflect discipleship. Jesus has taught us that love is always more important than being right. May we be a people who serve instead of a people with something to prove.