‘I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’Luke 18:14
This verse, from the gospel for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost in Year C, Luke 18:9-14, ends with a call to humility. Responding to the call requires acknowledgement of one’s sin, confession, and repentance. The response also acknowledges that our moving forward involves God’s Holy Spirit working in us to shape us into who we were meant
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been sharing this message, this HEWing message, the message that is intended to shape you into who you were meant to be. This message has effectively been a call to humility. Humility is the beginning of the process of falling in line with the will of God, which I’ve also said is what purpose is about. Humility allows us to be moulded, to be bent, to be flexed, and even to be stretched. Humility separates us from hardness of heart. Hardness of heart results in rigidity and unyielding mindsets, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to change. Ironically enough, hardness of heart opens us up to be crippled by fear. Often, hardness of heart causes us to break in the process of HEWing; humility allows us to be shaped into who we were meant to be.
The unfortunate truth, though, is that humility has been misrepresented. Humility has been despised. We have been turned away from humility. Why? It’s anyone’s guess, really. Perhaps it is because, somehow, because of the common root, humility has been mistaken for humiliation. If this is the case, then this confusion is unfortunate. Humility, you see, is founded in love; humiliation is founded in pride.
Let’s explore this foundation of love for a moment. Matthew 22:34-40 records an exchange between Jesus and a lawyer (one who studied Jewish Law). The lawyer, testing Jesus, asks Him which is the greatest of all Jewish Law. Jesus points to the foundation of the Law in love: love of God, love of self and love of neighbour as self. If we understand this command, then we understand that we begin with love of God for God is love. To love God, though, requires a relationship with God, a relationship that can only be built if we know God as I encouraged in last week’s piece entitled ‘Knowledge is Power’. As we grow in our relationship with God, we begin to love God in a way patterned after God’s love for us. As we increase in love for God, we begin to listen to God, listen for who God says we are. As this happens, the voices of distraction – family, friends, work associates, the media, even the voice of self-doubt, and other voices – pale in comparison to the voice of God, our Creator, who fashioned us in God’s image and likeness. This allows us to look at ourselves and to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are. As this capacity increases, we understand that all of creation is a part of God’s love. We realise that our neighbour is a part of God’s image and likeness – of love. As we realise that, we learn to love our neighbour, just as we love ourselves. At this point, we view ourselves no better than our neighbour; we view our neighbour no better than ourselves. This is where we begin to walk in humility. Reflecting on this, we understand that humility is nothing that invites shame or humiliation. Rather, humility opens the way for camaraderie, unity and peace. Humility is part of that which ‘makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.’ as we read in Romans 14:19.
Let’s return now to the role of humility in the HEWing process. HEWing, as I’ve been sharing, is the process of stripping ourselves of mindsets – pride, intolerance, impatience, anger, envy, lust, greed, indiscipline, laziness, etc – and behaviours as well so that the beauty of who we were meant to be can shine through. HEWing increases our Human Effectiveness at Work. How does this happen? Well, if we’re humble, as God calls us to change, rather than focussing on the things to be lost, we stand on the promises of God and the reward to be gained at the end, and we submit to the process of change. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says it best:
Humility allows us not to be attached and consequently to be constrained by the former things because there is a new thing to be done in us and through us. That new thing is the thing that will allow us to attain our purpose as we are shaped into the effective human being that we were created to be. The HEWing process is difficult (it strains us, as Paul says) and can be completed only by the strength of the Holy Spirit. One thing’s for sure, the HEWing process moves us forward. Without it, we remain stuck, at best, or go backwards, at worst.
So, to end where we began: the gospel ends this way: ‘all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ If we take this in conjunction with Philippians 2:5-10, sounds to me like Jesus, the Way, is calling us along the path that he walked, the one that allowed him to be exalted. The one that allowed Him to fulfil His purpose here on earth.
Here’s my question to you: do you accept the call? Until next time, I bid you