It is an odd and beautiful phenomenon that, during these times of crises, most people are eager to support, encourage, offer aid and give of their time and resources for the good of the whole. For some reason, these scenarios bring out something akin to Paul’s exhortation to his beloved in Philippi: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
This is, of course, not universally the case. There are those who hoard resources (hand sanitizer, anyone?) and attempt to profit off the ubiquitous fear and suffering of our communities. Yet, these opportunists are generally judged as selfish and crude behaviors, noted in nightly news spots and online articles for the obvious “selfish ambition.” We are able, in solidarity with one another, to more clearly identify the arrogance, selfish ambition and opportunism that runs rampant in our world always and everywhere.
Solidarity in suffering — this is the posture of Christ with us, the posture beautifully expressed in the “Christ Hymn”: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (2:6-8). Now, when so many people are suffering alongside one another through this unprecedented time, we are closer to having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. It is in this place of solidarity that we are most easily disposed to the self-emptying, other-centered humility given to us in Christ Jesus.
Today, humility is recognizing that I cannot fix this problem by “doing.” We are in an interesting place, where the remedy for the problem is selfless immobility and (gasp) rest from our normal doings. Your limit and rest are God’s gifts. So, embrace the humility of your limitation and that of your neighbor. In so doing, you consider others better than yourselves and look to their interests before your own.
The Rev. Jonathan Tuttle is rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kingsport.