In 1940, the newly opened Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world. It was a beautiful engineering feat, until it wasn’t. One windy day, it began to twist and heave until it collapsed into a scrap heap of metal beams and cables. The engineer had wanted to build a slender, aesthetic bridge. It took some hubris to ignore the suspension bridge principles that made the Brooklyn Bridge a success sixty years earlier.

The Tacoma collapse was not because design principles were wrong, but because some were not considered. A smart engineer is a humble one who holds the well-being of others paramount, while maintaining confidence in all proven design principles.

Confidence and humility can coexist. That is of a piece with what we observe in Jesus, and what he expects in His followers. But it is also contrary to human nature. It is too easy to grasp a truth, then adopt an air of superiority, which leads to trenchant marginalization of those who are “ignorant” or “obstinate.” That might well describe religious arrogance, but that’s not how we Christians are meant to be.

Jesus was confident. He knew who He was (and is). But that did not stop Him from embracing His purpose and mission. “He existed in the form of God,” but “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to… death on a cross.” It’s that same confidence and humility that season the believer’s relationships with others. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit… look out for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2).

Every human being is made in the image of God. But we live flawed lives which can only be restored to righteousness by God. Whatever else those truths might mean, it is a call to treat your fellow humans with respect. Humility means love even your enemies, according to Jesus. It does not preclude your confident association with those who disagree or do not believe. That confidence is not in yourself, but in the Savior who has given you new life. Knowing what you were before you received Christ and that you are quite capable of failing is enough to keep you humble – even as you confidently share His amazing grace.

Paul Tillich was a philosopher and theologian. When asked to define Christianity, he said, “That’s easy. A Christian is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” That thought expresses your confidence in the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ), and your humility in recognizing your own need. Peter said it this way: “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).

Look up the video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. Confidence without humility is a recipe for folly.