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Life of humbleness & meekness (10)

Pope Shenouda III | 11 September 2011

 A proud person is in danger of perishing, because ego and pride usually lead to many sins and prevent a person from recognizing this, for as the Scripture says, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16: 18) What are the aspects of such destruction and falling?

   God resists the proud:
   A proud person may face resistance from others, for pride is a detestable sin, but more serious is facing resistance from God, for St. James the Apostle says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jas 4: 6) How terrible that God resists His creation for pride!
 
   The first creature God resisted was Satan: 
   Satan wanted to rise above all and be like the Most High (Isa 14: 14), and in his fall he continued to resist God without being humbled. He even made some angels of various ranks fall like him, forming a host carrying out his plan of resisting God.
 
   Satan is still resisting God and His kingdom and children, and when he will be released from his prison he will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth (Rev 20: 7), and will deceive, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24: 24).
 
   The most dangerous enemy that will appear at the end of times is also called "the opponent".
   He is the Anti-Christ who will cause the general apostasy that will precede the Second Coming of the Lord Christ. The Apostle describes him as, "The man of sin … the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," whose coming is "according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish." (2 Thess 2: 1- 10)
 
   In his pride, that opponent, like his master, will allege divinity, will be lofty and resistant, and will be tempted by wonders, signs, and power. Therefore God will resist such a person and will consume him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess 2: 8).
 
   The Lord Christ had compassion upon those sinners who had a contrite heart, and resisted the proud.
   He defended the sinful humiliated woman who had been caught in the very act, and said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (Jn 8: 11) At the same time He resisted the proud scribes and Pharisees who forgot their sins and wanted to stone her, saying to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (Jn 8: 7)
 
   The Lord also had compassion upon the contrite sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears, but rebuked the haughty Pharisee who disdained and judged her. That haughty Pharisee suspected the Lord Christ – glory to Him – saying in his heart, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." (Lk 7: 39) Therefore the Lord revealed to him how both of them were indebted to God, but that woman was better than him, for she repented while he did not, and therefore she was forgiven.
 
   The Lord likewise resisted the scribes and Pharisees because they were hypocrites and haughty.
   He uttered woes against them for they loved the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces and shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for they neither went in themselves, nor did they allow those who were entering to go in. He described them as "Blind guides" (Mt 23: 6- 27).
 
   Beware then of pride lest God resist you, and learn from the hard words said in this context in the Book of Isaiah:
   "For the day of the Lord of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up - and it shall be brought low - upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; Upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall … The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isa 2: 12-17). So, if you fear to be resisted by the Lord, be humble, for He gives grace to the humble (Jas 4: 6).
 
   Arrogance:
   An arrogant person may feel himself great, or greater than others by comparison, or even the greatest and the best, surpassing everybody!
 
   With such arrogance a person may even look down upon the others!
   Having such a feeling a person reveres nobody, not even the elders and seniors, nor care about the others' feelings! Indeed for if he exalts himself above all that is called God, how much rather above human beings!
 
   The humble, on the contrary, reveres everybody, even the lesser or the lower in rank.
   The humble treats everyone respectfully, even the subordinates or disciples and servants. He never hurts anyone, not even the sinful or wrongdoers. In this way the Lord Christ treated the sinful Samaritan woman, not hurting her, nor speaking to her about repentance or chastity, but about the living water and worshipping God in spirit and truth (Jn 4)!
 
   The arrogant falls in other sins, such as judging the others and slander.
   The arrogant speaks disrespectfully and indecently about the others with hurting and harsh words and reviling, as if the others are senseless or have no feelings! Such a person forgets the words of the Scripture that no revilers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6: 9, 10). The Apostle put the revilers on equal footing with other sinners, like the thieves, the covetous, the fornicators, and the idolaters. The arrogant may not recognize that by reviling he is committing an awful sin, but may imagine that it is his right to revile and judge out of holy zeal and desire to correct and teach!
 
   Pride may lead to self-righteousness:    
   The proud is righteous, or even wise, in his own eyes, while the Scriptures warns against this and rebukes such type of people, saying, "Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes." (Prov 3: 7; 26: 5) Yet is it hard for such people to admit that they are wrong!
 
   Actually it is difficult, or even impossible, for some people to admit it.
   Their behavior or views may be evidently wrong, yet in their pride they would not waive their alleged "infallibility"! They insist on defending their wrongdoings, resisting and attacking whoever reveals their faults or weaknesses, and justifying themselves by all means. Pride leads them to stubbornness.
 
   Stubbornness:
   A stubborn person usually resists and struggles to prevail by all means in every argument, a matter which may lead him astray from truth, laying all focus on himself. This way of argument and stubbornness may not be comfortable to those dealing with such a person, seeing it useless and waste of time and exhaustion, so they avoid arguing with him to keep their peace and avoid fighting. Feeling separated he falls in introversion and becomes nervous in any discussion. In case of theological or dogmatic arguments, such a person may fall in a heresy.
 
   Heresies and heterodoxies:
   All heretics, with no exception, were haughty and violent, for scarcely did any of them fall in a heresy out of ignorance.
 
   Even the ignorant may accept correction and change his views if only he is humble.
   The proud, on the contrary, cannot admit that he is wrong. He holds to his deviating thoughts, defending and supporting them, or adapting biblical commentary to them! In this way the proud adheres to the wrong dogmatic views, growing into a heresy.
 
   Pride may make a person convinced that he has invented a new thought which nobody, not even the church fathers, had reached before. It turns into a heresy, and he admiring himself for reaching such a new, perhaps an interesting thought, tries to spread it to gain fame and praise!
 
   The heresy may lead such a person to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Rom 12: 3), and may speak about things not handled expressly by the Scripture or by the fathers, or are beyond our understanding. In his pride he is ashamed to say, 'I do not know', so he expresses his opinion and attempts to support it even from irreligious sources, not willing to say that it is merely a private opinion or concept.
 
   The proud tries to introduce his views as a doctrine! 
   He may even claim that his views represent the teaching of the church and wonders if anybody inquires about the source of his views, seeing himself as a source to be sought by everybody! Theological discourse actually requires humbleness of heart and thought.
 
   The humble thinks himself more knowledgeable than the others, therefore accepts no correction!  
   Arius the heretic insisted on his views, and refused to obey the guidance of Pope Peter the Seal of Martyrs, of Pope Alexandros and the ecumenical council the Pope held, formed of a hundred bishops from St. Mark See in Egypt and Lybia. Arius did not even accept the convincing evidences introduced by St. Athanasius and the great ecumenical council of Nicaea composed of 318 bishops and archbishops representing all the churches of the world. Arius insisted on his thoughts, ignoring the views of those bishops, patriarchs and councils. 
 
   Obstinacy is a characteristic of the proud and the heretic.
   An obstinate person is certainly proud, and behind any heresy there lies obstinacy and pride. Obstinacy is a detestable quality not confined to theological and dogmatic discourses, and it leads to the isolation and introversion of the person holding to it.
 
   So many are the consequences and signs of pride, such as vainglory, love of praise and honoring, arrogance, self-concentration and seeking priority, but there is no space to discuss all of them in one article. We shall continue with them next week – God willing.
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