John Stackhouse explains how disruptive the Christian idea of humility has been.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche saw many things more clearly than many of us do, and one of the things he saw clearly was just how strange and how disruptive was the Christian emphasis upon humility – upon raising up those whom society had deemed to be low, or whom the power politics had rendered low. The idea that everyone should be treated well, and that nobody should be treated badly, that in fact, Jesus was the champion of the oppressed and the lowly – which Nietzsche would have said, in other words, losers – was in Nietzsche’s view the transvaluation of values. It was a complete inversion of the way things were supposed to be.
In the ancient church, they’re dealing with a Roman culture of honour. And honour is something that you can win, you can even buy it if you’ve been successful enough. And cultures around the world are like that. Chinese culture is very strongly an honour culture, has to do with status and privilege. You even wear different clothes, depending on what kind of job you do and what status you have in a Confucianist society.
And so most of the cultures of the world, in fact, say where you are in the pecking order is your fault, so to speak, it is all you’ve been able to earn. And Christianity comes along and says nope, nope, there are all kinds of reasons why people could be up and down the social scale. Some of them are good reasons, some of them are bad. And what we have to do is remember that we are all children of God, we are all created in God’s image, and everyone is entitled to a fair go.