I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God that is among you . . . Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another . . . 1 Peter 5:1-5
Early on in my recovery, I felt out of place in church. My life was a mess, and my colossal failure was still fresh in my memory. Church was a place where everyone appeared to have it all together. I knew how badly I needed God and I wanted to be around others who also knew this. So, I volunteered for a jail Bible study. It was exactly what I needed and I’ve kept it up, still going weekly, now with a buddy. Eight years into recovery though, and it’s natural for me to drift from that place of desperate need. Now, it’s my tendency to think of myself as the knowledgeable teacher. I do, after all, have some success at recovery. I do have some wisdom to share.
Often though, I find myself learning from those inmates. Yes, their lives are a disaster and yes, I’ve got more sober time. But, in jail, they’re leading their own Bible studies and inviting others to come with them to ours. They may be new at this faith thing, but their lives are on fire and they’re bolder than I ever am. As spiritually immature as they may be, they’re obedient. At times I find myself admiring them and feeling a little guilty that they’re so vocal about their faith and recovery. I might approach those inmates as their teacher, but if I’m willing to embrace a little humility, I learn from them.
This is the message I get from today’s passage. In it, Peter provided some guidelines of church authority and structure. He said that the elders have a responsibility to teach the younger and less mature. He taught the younger that they must to look up to and respect their elders. Then, he included the instruction that holds it all together – Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another. This whole process works only if we embrace humility towards one another.
None of us have it all figured out. We’re all still flawed and, while we’re on this Earth, we all have room to grow. Some of us do have more experience and success which we should be willing to share with those who’re newer at faith and recovery. There will also always be those from whom we can learn though, and even those we consider beneath us may have something to teach us. Pride is the enemy of faith and growth. Only in humility, can we all learn from each other.