Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ecumenical Virtue of Humility

This is the sixth in a series of daily posts during this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25, 2011) offering brief reflections on the biblical basis for the quest for Christian unity. These reflections are drawn from the pages of Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity (Cascade Books, 2010).

We embody one life with each other through the character trait of humility. In Ephesians 4:2, the two words translated “humility” and “gentleness” in the New Revised Standard Version were really synonyms in the Greek language. In English we’d call that a redundancy, but in Greek rhetoric the piling up of synonyms gave emphasis to an idea—what linguists call “semantic pleonasm,” for those who care about such things. If “humility” and “gentleness” mean the same thing in the Greek employed here, the language is emphatically making the single point, “be utterly humble.” Humility in the service of the unity of the church means being willing to contemplate the possibility that other Christians from whom we’re divided may have preserved some conviction or practice belonging to the wholeness of the church’s faith that our own church currently lacks, even while humbly offering the distinctive gifts of our own church to the rest of the body of Christ. Ecumenical humility means being open to the possibility that our own tradition could prove to be on the wrong side of this or that church-dividing issue, even while remaining committed to seeking the good of our own communion.

-- from chapter 3, “One Life with Each Other: The Theology of Ecumenism”

Interested in Ecumenism Means You, Too? Order the book directly from Cascade Books or via Amazon.

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