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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

Humility



“Pride is your greatest enemy; humility is your greatest friend.” So said the late John R.W. Stott, a remarkably humble man of great abilities and accomplishments who is often said to have made the greatest impact for Christ of anyone in the twentieth century.


Humility is often characterized as genuine gratitude, a lack of arrogance, and a modest view of oneself. However, the biblical definition of humility goes beyond this. Humility is a critical and continuous emphasis on godliness in the Bible. We are called upon to be humble followers of Christ and trust in the wisdom and salvation of God. True humility is seeing ourselves as we truly are, fallen in sin and helpless without God.


"He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way." Psalm 25:9

Admittedly, humility and the humbling of oneself is out of fashion in today’s world and seems unappealing to most of us. However, as Jonathan Edwards said, “We must view humility as one of the most essential things that characterizes true Christianity.” Our perspective on humility can be radically changed if we will ponder and meditate on the greatest example of humility in history: Jesus Christ. By the very act of leaving heaven, coming to earth, and taking the form of man, he demonstrated an unfathomable humbling of himself. Throughout his life on earth, Jesus demonstrated a spirit of profound humility, saying that he came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). On his last night with the disciples, he took a towel and basin and washed their dirty feet (John 13:1–11), instructing them to follow his example of servanthood with one another (John 13:12–17). Andrew Murray captures it well, “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.”


Our world doesn’t value humility but instead prizes fame, power, and a certain swagger. Yet St. Ignatius always tell us that greater intimacy with Jesus comes through humility and humiliation. Ok, Ignatius, I’ll pay attention.


In Zechariah 9:9-10, the beleaguered Israelites, who were always awaiting a king to save them, are told to expect a different kind of savior. The passage opens with a call to joy and celebration as the Lord says, “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you.”


Yet this king is one who comes in total simplicity, riding not the powerful chariot or a warrior’s horse, but the humble, plodding transportation of the poor: a young donkey. This savior promises to banish the weapons and instruments of war “and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” Both the people of Israel, and we today, long for peace. We can hear this promise in our hearts.


The message is reinforced by the Psalm in Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14, as we are invited into a relationship with a God who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and kind. Our loving God promises to lift up all who are falling and raise up all who are burdened in life. Are there any of us who don’t need, and long for, that kind of support from God who has an endless supply of love?


Matthew 11:25-30 offers an invitation from Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” The audience for this message from Jesus is the people who follow him each day. Pope Francis describes those listeners as simple people, the poor, the sick, sinners, those who are marginalized. The pope said these humble people “always followed him to hear his word — a word that gave hope!” In his ministry Jesus spoke to them, healed them and encouraged them to speak to God as a loving father. Now, Francis says, “He calls them all to himself: ‘Come to me,’ and he promises them relief and rest.”

But of course, in the Christian life, “relief and rest” are not the end of the invitation. We are also called by Jesus to take up his yoke on our shoulders. and continue the work of caring for those around us, offering support to so many weary people, worn out under the unbearable weight of neglect and indifference. How are we supposed to do that when we may not feel all that strong ourselves?


It helps to picture a yoke, a harness shared by two oxen which allows them to work together as a team. Jesus is not handing over a burden to us but is asking us to join him in his work, to share the yoke. Suddenly, humility seems like something I want to do.


Our world, and maybe our lives, seem so heavy and heart-wrenching right now. We are called to a meekness that allows us to ask our loving God for help; to learn from Jesus how to make our way through it in small and humble service to others. That is where we will finally find peace.


We beg for humility that can place us in the shoes of another to see and begin to understand their world and point of view. We are not in this alone, but side by side with Jesus, doing our part but knowing we are guided and loved by his great heart.


Sources

1. Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis

2. Humility – Andrew Murray

3. The Works of Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards

6. Power of Humility – R. T. Kendall

7. Patience & Humility – William Ullathorne

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