Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
I have spent much of my Christian life loving the verse that comes after this, where Peter tells us that God will exalt us if we act humbly. Or at least that is the vision I have given myself of that verse. Then I note He cares for me, and that I need to be "sober" and watchful because the devil is out to get me. Or at least that is the vision I have given myself. I do not think these ideas are to be negated, but perhaps I should see a new layer to the fruit of this epistle to God's church.
What does it mean to "clothe" ourselves? Certainly it is more than the Christian t-shirts and jewelry I can easily put on, and which I can easily shed or rationalize when the "message" contradicts my action. The Bible is filled with metaphors about clothing. We wrap ourselves in garments, primarily to protect us from what is outside, and to cover parts of ourselves not suitable for public viewing. Way down on the reasons for wearing any clothes should be a desire to attract. It is not that beauty or the art of fashion is evil in God's eyes, but that these are less important.
I have no word or understanding how to put on such clothes as humility. I must consider what humility is. It is more than acting humble, though I see the value of trying such until humility is a part of the being and not merely crudely shaped behavior. It is not self-debasement, or dishonesty about one's gifts or talents. The only idea of humility I can understand is one which looks at the self in honest perspective. I may be very good at something, and judged by others as the best, but if so, it is only because of what God has given me. It is not humble to pretend the talent doesn't exist. It is sin to fail to acknowledge the Source of that talent. It may well be death to forget how quickly it can be taken away.
To say that "God opposes the proud" may well conjure visions of an angry Lord waiting to smite any who refuse to think with some child's view of humility. I know I have often thought in this verse of God being "against" those who do not think or act like me. But now, I cannot look at it this way. Oppose does not necessarily mean "against" (or "hates" as some have misunderstood). I wonder, instead, if I should not look at the word to mean "stands in the way of." I cannot speak for others, or certainly every situation involving proud individuals.But I can say that my own pride has often not only come before a fall, but kept me from standing at all. Perhaps God stood in my way, not to give me a barrier to bust through or an obstacle to navigate, but to wait out my stubborn self-kingship.
Let me not speculate on what it means for Christ to exalt me, but any lifting up without His Grace is doomed to be disastrous. Perhaps it is recent suffering -- suffering mostly from my own hand and head and not God trying to "push me down" -- that leads me to consider grace so highly. I know it has been the subject of my prayers more than ever in the past couple of years, maybe because it is the "daily bread" I have only begun to realize I need, and deep in my being really want.
Putting on a dress of humility may be uncomfortable at times. But the coat of Pride has been found wanting. It has contributed to nothing less than illness. If we want to be well, we must trust our Doctor.
Lord, help me to abandon my pride, and to wear the garments of humility. Cover me, God, and lead me in Grace. In Christ, Amen.