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Contemporary Applications of Humility from Teachings of the New Testament

Farley is no fool. He recognizes that Christian believers may reject the notion of humility being a prerequisite to salvation. Nevertheless, Farley persists in trying to convince readers why humility is essential. He also delineates how individuals experience the wrath of God in their lives. Part two covers the ways in which the gospel humbles, and part three shows how workers in Christian ministry can avoid the temptation to pragmatism in their ministries due to their fear of others’ reactions to the gospel message. Farley encourages believers to stay faithful to God’s message of judgment (first) and God’s redemptive plan (second).

Feldmeier’s audience [Reinhard Feldmeier, Power, Humility, Service: A New Testament Ethic (Waco, TX: Baylor Press, 2014), 155 pages, ISBN 9781481300254] is the general reader who has an interest in power from a biblical perspective, and in humility as the antidote to the insidious forms that power can take. He begins the book with a provocative “prelude,” in which he relates the narrative of the devil’s attempts to seduce Jesus away from his God-given mission. He juxtaposes the devil’s power with the divine power and demonstrates through explication of the Gospels the struggle that persists between the forces of evil and good. Feldmeier’s thesis is that as a result of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and his subsequent resurrection, power in the world changed hands. Believers have been empowered by this new reality for service in the world. In just four short chapters, Feldmeier reflects on the nature of power and how it can be used for good by human beings, through service both in communities and by the political state. The basis for service is humility, and he examines the writings of the New Testament for a holistic perspective on power, service, and humility.

Feldmeier begins with an historical overview of the notion of power and religion, showing how ancient notions of power create a dichotomy between gods and humans, in particular as power relates to the rule of law. Rulers are powerful; the ruled are powerless. In both the Old and New Testaments, God is seen as all-powerful, and yet, Jesus, Son of God, takes on a form of powerlessness in order to overcome the power of evil in the world. Indeed, the New Testament repeatedly teaches that Almighty God is powerful because of the love that he pours out on his people. Thus, his people become powerful only to the degree they love others. Christian believers love others through service.

Reinhard Feldmeier

Jesus is very clear in his teaching that loving others requires his disciples to serve. He reminds them that rulers “lord over” the people, but to be great (and by extension, powerful), believers must be servants first. His followers continue to share this ethic—both Paul and Peter teach the community of believers to love and serve. Furthermore, both apostles warn believers not to feel self-important when serving and run the risk of cultivating pride. Because although truly humble behavior results in a divine grace of power, it is all too easy in the struggle between evil and good for believers to be drawn away to the arrogant form of power that subjugates another human being. Feldmeier is clear: “puffing one’s self up” results in a destruction of human relationships and binds the hand of God to work in both humans’ lives. Pride and arrogance leave no room for personal development into the image of Christ. Feldmeier leaves his readers with a final thought on power. Because of Jesus’s willingness to humble himself and give up his divine power in order that God’s relationship with human beings might be restored, believers in this act of grace are obligated to live out a similar reality. It is because of the Spirit’s empowerment at work in believers’ lives that they are able to serve others in love and humility. And as a result of believers’ acts of love, they, too, share in the divine power.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2016

About the Author: Michelle Vondey, Ph.D. (Regent University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), has more than twenty years’ experience working in non-profit organizations. Her interests are focused mainly on developing followers in their roles in organizations. She teaches courses in leadership, critical reasoning, and Christian discipleship. 2012 dissertation LinkedIn

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