Humility in The United Methodist Church


I’ve been preaching through Paul’s letter to the believers at Philippi and have several times stopped to shake my head at how appropriate and timely his words are now for my life, my church, and my denomination (The United Methodist Church).

Like other mainline denominations, the UMC is wrestling (probably an understatment) with homosexuality and marriage equality within the Church and in our doctrine. I’ve resisted writing on this because I don’t feel I have an answer and another post would just be more noise on the internet.

In Philippians, Paul writes to the church making a plea for the church to be united by being “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (2:2). Paul then writes how they are to do this in 2:3-4:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of the others.”

Paul throws down the best example one can think of when it comes to humility- Jesus,

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8

For Paul, the way for the church to be united is through Christ-like humility. Paul doesn’t seem to advocate for unity through orthodoxy, but a mindset that leads to a lifestyle of humility that promotes unity. Paul calls on the church at Philippi to lay their lives down for each other ahead of their own agendas. To put the interest and affairs of others ahead of their own concerns.

How does this address equality? It probably doesn’t for those who want to be right. As the divide seemingly grows in our congregation- and possibly in our churches- we can fall to the temptation of tearing apart the “other side.” Are we living a “life worthy of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:27) in the way we treat our clergy colleagues and church leaders? As we post on blogs, comment on Facebook, and interact in person, let us remember to live and respond in Christ-like humility towards one another.


About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor of Orchard Church in Magnolia, Delaware. Elder in the Pen-Del Conference.
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3 Responses to Humility in The United Methodist Church

  1. Billy McMahon says:

    Great post. Paul’s concept of strength-in-weakness and kenosis of Christ really do confound us.

  2. Billy, thanks for the comment! Our relationships, churches, and communities would look a lot different if we were to really practice this kind of Christ-like humility!

  3. John says:

    Great post Steve. I have always (usually unsuccessfully) attempted to honor the Christ in others. I appreciate your willingness to not add flame to the fire (pun intended). Several years ago I was a member of a parish in Baltimore. Our rector was very progressive as they say. Progressive often implies that conservatives are knuckle draggers and I try to resist that line of thinking. Our congregation of about 300 souls was only 50% white. We had Anglicans from all over the world at Eucharist each week. I loved that church. We entered into a companionship with a parish in Ghana.. One summer the rector of that parish came to be with us for a month. Our liberal lady rector went to be with them at another time. None of us talked about the gay stuff that was and still rips our Global communion. We were just Christian together. At one of our dinners Fr. Negaye started to sing How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds and we all sang together without hymnals or instruments. Later he was speaking to me in the kitchen. I didn’t tell him I was gay as there was no need. He knew. He reached out and held my hand (which was weird) as we talked about Jesus and his presence in our lives and contexts for ministry. We didn’t solve any problems that night. I know I walked away changed. We saw each other as brothers in Christ. I know it sounds simplistic but it works. Just my two cents. I know our polity is very different but discipleship happens everywhere.

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