A Reflection based on the Sermon from Sunday, October 1, 2023
What is humility? We probably tend to think that humility is being down on ourselves, even putting ourselves down. However, this may be more indicative of depression or other struggles rather than having a humble spirit. We know that humility is the oppostive of pride, being puffed up with our own sense of self-importance. But what is it like for someone to be humble in everyday experience?
I find the insights of Christian author C.S. Lewis helpful here. His definition: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." In other words, humility isn't about our level of "self-esteem." Humility doesn't stem from either a low/high view of ourselves, nor does it come from what other people think or say of us. In practice, humility is simply thinking of ourselves less of the time. Instead of contstantly focusing on my opinions, my reputation, my tasks, my feelings, and so on, to be more humble would be to think less about all these things pertaining to my ego and to think more about God's verdict of me, and more about the lives and needs of other people.
Humility, then, could be defined as "self-forgetfulness." Tim Keller spoke of humility this way. He writes in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, "This is gospel-humility, blessed self-forgetfulness. Not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in traditional cultures. Simply thinking of myself less."
Paul spoke this way to the Philippians: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4) Paul paints a needed picture of humility for the Church and for everyone. This other-centered humility is needed in Church relationships, marriage and family life, friendship and neighborliness, and beyond.
However, must must always be clear that efforts at humbling ourselves do not make us Christians or bring us salvation. God must do that for us from the outside. Only Christ Jesus saves us! Only in Him do we see the ultimate truth about ourselves - that we are lost and condemned sinners without Him, but that in Him, we are beloved and forgiven children of God. God issues that verdict - He makes us right with Him through Christ alone, who humbled Himself for our salvation, even to the point of suffering and dying for us on His cross (see Philippians 2:5 and following).
Forgiven by Christ and justified by God by faith, we need not worry about what people think of us, nor even what we think of ourselves. We know that the Father sees us as His forgiven children through Jesus, and that is more than enough. Because of that, we are free to focus not just on ourselves, but on others and their needs and interests, just as our Savior has done for us.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, just as You thought not of Yourself and Your own interests but of me and and reconciling me to God when You gave Your life for me, help me to live not only for myself and my interests but for You and Your kingdom, as well as for my neighbors and their lives and needs. Help me to take a real interest in others just as You showed such great interest in me and my salvation. Amen.