About a year ago, I wrote a post about humility; the gist of it was that when we are praised by someone, we have a choice in how we respond, both inwardly and outwardly. Here is the link, if you’re interested: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/05/20/what-does-humility-look-like/ As we mature in Christ, hopefully we can develop the habit of responding humbly. For example, I recently wrote some encouraging words to my pastor; here is his response: “Thank you for your encouragement; may God have all the glory.” If you knew him, you would know that he means exactly what he wrote!
Another thing that caused me to think more about humility was a recent reminder from someone (thanks, Jennifer!) about Moses. Numbers 12:3 tells us, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” As I studied more about Moses and thought about his life, I realized that here was a man who grew up in the luxury of the palace of the Pharaoh; however, after he killed an Egyptian, he fled to the desert of Midian, where he spent the next forty years! That was a huge step down from a human perspective, but we know that the Lord was preparing him to lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. Moses had a close relationship with the Lord; in fact, Exodus 33:11 tells us: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Exodus 34:29 is particularly striking: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” Notice that phrase: he was not aware. That is the essence of humility: when we are living in close fellowship with the Lord, and as a result in thankful obedience to Him, we are not always even aware of it. From a human perspective, we might think that Moses, a man who was God’s friend and whose face shone after he spoke with Him, would be boastful; in fact, however, it was because of his close relationship with the Lord that he was so humble!
Another aspect of humility that I’ve been thinking about for some time is forgiveness. Much has been written about forgiveness, but my main focus here is on how we apologize. In the media, I often hear something like this: “I want to apologize if…” When a person makes such a conditional statement, they are well aware that they have offended or even hurt people. Perhaps that is a blanket way of saying that they have not offended or hurt everyone, but only some; sometimes, it’s a way for the person to protect himself or herself legally. Nevertheless, it comes across as something much less than a true apology. Getting closer to home, how about this: “I’m sorry I said/did that, but…” As soon as that little three-letter word is added, the listener realizes that an excuse–or worse, blame–is coming. On the other hand, “I’m sorry that…” is much more likely to be a true apology, and it is a way to show true humility.
How we respond to an apology, or on an even deeper level, to someone’s asking for forgiveness, is also an important aspect of humility. I have recently noticed (on a couple of TV shows) statements like this: “I’m not going to let you feel good about yourself by forgiving you.” Obviously, when we let someone off the hook by forgiving them, it makes them “feel good,” but that’s missing the point: the person who chooses not to forgive chooses instead to hold on to resentment and bitterness. That is very dangerous, as Matthew 6:15 tells us: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Choosing to forgive is right, and it is also an expression of humility.
Do you show humility by asking for forgiveness and by forgiving others? Do I? As we continue to grow in Christ, forgiveness will become more and more an expression of our love for Him and others.