home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 >  September > DIFFERENT HUMILITY

DIFFERENT HUMILITY

Would you like to be known as a humble person? There are few qualities that are admired nearly as much as humility. A humble person is considered a virtuous (good) person. We love world-class athletes and sporting heroes who are great at what they do, yet humble. We acclaim a true champion with the accolade, “They’re so humble!” Humility is prized today as one of the greatest virtues a person can attain. However, there was a time when humility was seen as weakness and something to be ashamed of — resembling its linguistic cousin — humiliation — and non-one ever wants to be humiliated! But then something dramatically changed the way the world regarded humility. Jesus the Christ entered the world. He exhibited a humility which involved the selfless care of others. This is what people saw (and experienced) when they encountered Jesus. Thus, no one challenged His claim of being humble when He declared-

Take My yoke on you and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29 NET

Jesus gave the world a different perspective on humility. Those early followers of Christ became renowned for their embracing of humility. They set the example for future generations of Christ-followers to live humbly in service of others. Many of these godly Christ-followers were ordinary people who didn’t seek wealth or fame or even public attention. Their pursuit of humility was genuine and often resulted in costly selfless serving of others. Their lives became admirable and inspired millions of others to seek a relationship with the Christ and to follow His life of humility and service to others. There are many things that can be taught in this life, but there are some things that can only be caught by seeing it for yourself in someone else whom you come to admire.  

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
Ephesians 4:2

IS TRUE HUMILITY TRULY ATTAINABLE?

Would the New Testament command followers of the Christ to do something that was impossible to do? Hardly! Would the New Testament command people to strive to attain an attitude, a virtue, that was unachievable? If you can demonstrate that you have become a considerate and gentle person, can you claim to be one without sounding arrogant (the opposite of humility)? Can someone take seriously the command to be humble and truly claim that they are without negating their claim in the process? Is it more humble to claim that you are not humble even if you are (and then, can a truly humble be truly humble if they lie about not being humble)? Perhaps the answer to these questions lies in what humility truly means. Consider these biblical commands to be humble: 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
Colossians 3:12

Considering these New Testament commands, we soon realise that the commands to be humble are couched within lists of other reasonably attainable commands: treat others kindly, be considerate of others, have compassion for people, be patient with others. Since these things can be done (and claimed to have been done), this supports the idea that humility can also be achieved. Perhaps then, the one who has demonstrated their obedience to the New Testament to be humble may not necessarily be proud or arrogant if they declare that they claim to be humble. 

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:11

TRUE HUMILITY

Humility is a hallmark of a true follower of Christ, because it was so integral to the character that Christ displayed. It is one of the goals of the Christian life. The two other most important Christian virtues, holiness and love, are the means by which a son or daughter of God becomes humble. In fact, this triumvirate of the Christian virtues lies at the core of what it means to live Christianly. Each of these virtues speaks to how we treat, think of, and relate to others.

  • To live a holy life is to treat others respectfully in the light of our respect for God (Rom. 12:1). Thus, sexuality is expressed within the respect that we have God for decreed its exclusive boundaries within the covenant of marriage (1Thes. 4:3; Heb. 13:4).

  • To live a life of love is to treat others in a way that seeks their highest good and is considerate of their welfare (1Cor. 13).

  • To live a humble life is embody both of the virtues of holiness and love and in the process not seek to promote yourself but to help others who may not have anyone promoting them and their welfare. It demands that we not assume judgmental opinions about others, but seek to learn their stories and use our power for their benefit.

 

HUMILITY AND POWER

Can you be a powerful person (with position, privilege, influence) and also be a humble person? The answer from Christ seems to be, “Yes.” But it is a yes that comes with warnings. Power tends to corrupt people. Humility makes a person virtuous. Humility embraced by a powerful person makes them an admirable person. In John Dickson’s book, Humilitas, he defines humility as using one’s power for the good of others. He gives many examples of how this has been the case in the lives of those universally acknowledged as humble. His story of the three white Detroit teenage boys who got on a bus in the 1930s and thought it might be fun to taunt the solitary black man who was sitting quietly at the back of the bus is brilliant example of humility. The boys jibed the black man attempting to pick a fight with him. They called him all kinds of names and threw various insults at him. The black man just sat there unfazed and silent. When the bus came to the stop where the black man stood to his feet to get off, the three boys noticed for the first time that this black man was bigger than they had realised. Much bigger. As he stood us they noticed that he wasn’t quite the scrawny man they had assumed. As he walked past the now silent boys he took something from his pocket and gave it to one of the boys. After he go off the bus, the boy looked at what this black man had handed him. It was a card. It read – JOE LOUIS, Boxer

These boys had just encountered the future undefeated heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In fact, not just any heavyweight boxing champion, but the longest undefeated reign of any heavyweight champion in the history of boxing —  who is widely acclaimed as the greatest boxer of all time. These boys had nearly picked a fight with a man who would knock-out cold 52 of some of the toughest men on the planet. Yet, Joe Louis Barrow, ‘the Brown Bomber’, had used his power for their good!

But Joe Louis is not the greatest example of holding your power in restraint for the good of others, as an aspect of humility. Jesus is. Christ was not bragging when He said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Christ is therefore the greatest example of withholding your power for the good of others. But we should not be confused into thinking that humility is weakness. Having the power to hurt someone but choosing to restrain this power for their good is an act of humility. (There are times of course when evil must be restrained for the good of others which requires resistance and sometimes force which does not negate humility.) Most of us will be repeatedly tempted to use our power to hurt others who hurt us. When we yield to these temptations it undermines our pursuit of humility. Let us consider how we might pursue humility when we are tempted to get defensive and snap back at someone, or when we might use sarcasm or gossip to demean someone, or when we might present ourselves as being better than we actually are.

 

INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLES OF HUMILITY

Having said that Joe Louis was a great example of humility, and that Jesus Christ was the greatest example of humility, I want to close my exhortation to regard humility as attainable by the example of a Polish priest by the name of Jerzy Popieluszko. Jerzy faced great oppression from the Polish Communist government in the early 1980s. Communists at this time treated Polish Christians with blatant brutality. But Father Popieluszko taught his congregation to love their persecuting enemies and not hurt them back. So powerful and popular were his sermons that they were shared widely around Poland on cassette tapes (ask your grandfather what these were). Then one day, the Communist Secret Police could take it no more and they kidnapped Jerzy and brutally murdered him and threw his battered body into a reservoir. The Sunday after his death, thousands gathered to hear Father Jerzy by a cassette tape of his last sermon, broadcast on loud-speakers by his church, in which he appealed to his flock to obey Christ and “do good to those who persecute you” and not to do harm  (Luke 6:27-29). The Police braced themselves for the anticipated riots to follow. But none came. The people had heeded their pastor’s words to obey Christ and the result was that, within six years, communism collapsed in Poland.

Thousands of Polish people gathered to pay tribute to the late Jerzy Popieluskzo

Thousands of Polish people gathered to pay tribute to the late Jerzy Popieluszko

Humility is lowering yourself rather than belittling yourself.

Humility is being honest without exaggerating.

Humility is listening and talking.

Humility is more asking and less telling.

Humility is helping more and still being prepared to be helped.

Humility associates with the unlikely not just because it blesses them, but because there is also a blessing in doing it.

Humility is prepared to join with others and blend into the crowd even when the spotlight is on someone else.

Humility admits dependency upon others—especially God and His mercy and grace.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
First Peter 5:5

Humility must be attainable because we are commanded to exhibit it. “Humble yourself” the apostle Peter told his audience (1Pet. 5:6). The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that this was indeed what he had done when he came to them (2Cor. 11:7). He then proceeded to remind the Corinthians of his ministry among them in a fair and honest assessment of it. We shouldn’t confuse sharing such an honest assessment of ourselves as bragging. But neither should we think that we need to do it to anyone who would listen. In this instance, Paul was responding to opponents who were undermining the gospel and the faith of the Corinthians in it. May God help us each to be humble and all that that entails. And may we, by His grace, attain to this kind of humility and thereby reflect Christ more accurately to an increasingly confused, conflicted, broken world. And one final thing, just be careful who you pick a fight with on your next bus trip – or better still, make it a habit to not pick on anybody (especially heavyweight champions of the world!).  

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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