A recent Loving the Stranger Advisory Council discussion (click here to join us!) centered around qualities that make someone an effective welcomer. And do you know what all answers essentially boiled down to? Humility.
Humility. So easy to talk about, so hard to practice.
Let’s break it down. What does humility actually mean, and how can we cultivate it as welcomers?
Merriam Webster defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” I like that, since pride and arrogance surely is a form of bondage! What does it look like for our ministry of welcome to be free from pride and arrogance? Some ideas…
- We recognize at a deep level that there is only one Savior and we are not him.
- We joyfully accept that we are limited but able to be instruments in the Redeemer’s hands.
- We recognize that we need other people in the ministry of welcome, because one (wo)man shows aren’t sustainable.
- We seek to partner with other people, churches, and organizations who are involved in the ministry of welcome, realizing that, as the African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
(For more on this topic, check out “5 Self-Care Practices for Welcomers.”)
Merriam Webster has a separate definition for English Language Learners (did you know they did this – check it out here for use with your ESOL class!): “the quality or state of not thinking that you are better than other people.” What does it look like for us to truly believe that those we welcome are equal to us?
- We recognize that we could easily be in the situation of refugees had our life circumstances been different. We did not choose where to be born or the relative peace of where we grew up–neither did the refugees that we now welcome.
- We recognize the fragility of the infrastructure of any place at any time, and we are thankful for our relative security today, while not believing we are entitled to it or taking it for granted.
- We take to heart Jesus’ words: “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48), and so we devote ourselves to using our more stable position to anchor and orient the displaced and vulnerable.
- (Particularly for white Western Christians like me…or any combination of those three descriptors) We admit that we often think there is something about us that makes us better than the immigrants we meet. But we reject this and repent of it: we are not better or more worthy of respect by virtue of being American/European, being white, or being Christian, for:
“What do [we] have that we have not received? And if [we] received it, why do [we] boast about it as though we did not?” (1 Cor 4:7).
- We recognize the image of God in each immigrant we encounter and treat them with dignity and take them seriously, for, as C.S. Lewis said:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Cultivating humility is a gradual, lifelong process.
The only way to cultivate humility in our lives is by putting one foot in front of the other (for 1,001 steps and beyond!), looking upward to orient ourselves based on the One Savior’s greatness and our smallness, looking inward to examine our hearts, and looking outward to engage with a world full of equally magnificent creations of God!
Practical application: Maybe one step we could take today to cultivate humility in our lives as welcomers is to do this:
- Read aloud the bullet points I listed above as affirmations of a humble welcomer’s heart.
- As we read them aloud, we can contemplate if we can wholeheartedly affirm them.
- If not, let’s take some time to look upward and inward to see if reorientation is necessary.
It’s a journey–I’m glad to be walking with you!