Posted by: everynation | April 8, 2011

Humility (Part 3 of 4)

By Paul Barker

(Note: We are featuring a four-part series on the subject of Humility from Paul Barker’s blog in 2009. We hope you will find this meaningful and encouraging as you live to please and honor God.)

  • Humility produces grace.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

The Greek word translated opposes was originally used as a military term. It meant, “To line up troops in full battle attire to resist an enemy.” So then we could translate this verse, “God gives grace to the humble, but He lines up His troops in full battle attire to resist the proud.” That is not a happy thought to the person who is in pride. A story from history will help illustrate the point.

In 597, Pope Gregory sent Augustine, the prior of the monastery of St. Andrew, to convert the Saxon tribes of England and to reclaim the island for the Roman Church.

Augustine landed in southeast England and had rapid success converting the kings of the southern Saxon kingdoms. In 603, he went to meet with representatives of the Welsh Church in the west of the island. The Welsh Church had gradually lost touch with the Roman Communion since the Saxon raids of the fifth century. Augustine’s mission was to restore them to Rome. It was a delicate mission requiring the utmost diplomacy – and a sizeable portion of humility.

Augustine started the meeting by announcing to the Welsh that they were wrong in their dating of Easter and that they had many practices contrary to the unity of the Church. The Welsh did not readily receive such a peremptory presentation and the meeting did not go well, but they were willing to meet a second time.

Before the second meeting, the Welsh representatives consulted an aged and sagacious hermit to determine if they should submit to Augustine and the Roman Church. The hermit said, “Yes, if he is a man of God.”

“And how shall we know that?” they said.

“Our Lord said ‘Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.’ If this Augustine is gentle and lowly of heart, we may believe he bears the yoke of Christ and offers it to you. But if he is harsh and arrogant, it is plain that we must not heed what he says.”

“And how shall we tell if he is gentle and lowly of heart?” they replied.

“Arrange that he come to the place of meeting first. Then on your approach, if he rises and greets you, you will know that he is a servant of Christ, and you must obey him. But if he despises you and refuses to rise in your presence, then let him be despised to you.”

When the Welsh leaders arrived at the meeting, Augustine kept his seat. There was no reconciliation, and the Welsh Church remained independent for another 585 years.

God gives grace to the humble, but He lines up His troops in full battle attire to resist the proud.


Paul Barker is currently the Director of Leadership Development for Every Nation Ministries. He leads the team that produces the ENLI curriculum for North America and that trains vocational ministers to do university and high school ministry.

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