This last week I went through a humbling experience. It was brought to my attention by my mentor (and spiritual father…and pastor) that some of my antics on social media may have caused hurt to some close to me, as well as reminding me that as a pastor every action I take and every word I speak is being weighed by those looking on (believers and unbelievers alike, and maybe even more so those who are in my congregation).
He didn’t tell me what to do next, other than to say that he thought it best that I work hard in this area of my life and find a way to hopefully patch some relationships up that may have been damaged in the process.
I took all that he said to heart and chewed on it and prayed over it asking God to guide me in how to best approach this.
Having that meeting with my mentor was humbling enough, but what God had me do next was even more humbling. And that was to construct a formal public apology to all of my social media friends, family, and acquaintances who may have been hurt by my careless words and actions on social media. My letter can be found
My letter can be found HERE.
I won’t lie, I was a bit scared writing that letter.
I didn’t know what reactions I would get (if any). I didn’t know who might come out of the woodwork and totally blast me for being the hypocrite they always thought I was. I just didn’t know what to expect and my stomach ached the entire time I wrote it and published it.
But instead, I found loving words of affirmation posted to my letter. Thank yous for being transparent about my own challenges. I even got some private messages from people letting me know that my public letter challenged them to be more conscious about their own dealings with individuals on social media.
My being humbled became a strength to build on.
It is strange to say that there is strength in humility. But I think that’s probably because most of us in the Church (universal) have a misunderstanding about what true humility is.
Usually, when someone mentions the word “humility” they picture someone who is meek and mild, quiet and gentle, cowering in fear….you name it. The common idea behind humility that most often share is that it is an expression or a characteristic of weakness.
But, wasn’t Jesus called “humble”? Yes!
And how many of us consider Jesus to be weak? Not most.
So if we don’t actually understand humility, then what is humility really all about?
Thankfully for you and I, God saw it fit to inspire the Apostle Paul to write down for us in His Word what true biblical humility looks like, as modeled through His Son Jesus Christ.
In Philippians 2:3-11 ESV we can find three (3) traits of one who is humble.
First, let’s take a look at the passage:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
TRAIT 1: Considers others more significant than one’s self (verse 3-4)
Paul further elaborates what this looks like in verse 4. He says that we are exhibiting humility when we consider others more significant than ourselves when we consider their interests over ours.
From the experience I described above, I was NOT being humble when I was hurting people with my words. I was being quite the opposite. I was engaging in what Paul calls (in verse 3) selfish ambition and conceit. I was being arrogant. I was being loud. I was being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative or for the sake of having to be right. Or feeling like a statement made toward me in the wrong spirit needed to be addressed immediately and without pause.
However, humility came when I then began to consider how my words have hurt others and took action to hopefully repair what was broken.
This is not easy. Especially when you feel justified in what you have said because it wasn’t so much that what was said was wrong, but that the spirit in which it was given was not a spirit of love that God has called us to speak the truth in.
TRAIT 2: Has a servant attitude. (verses 6-7)
Jesus is often referred to as the “servant King”. And this was because, as Paul points out in verses 6 and 7, He as God took on the human form, lowered Himself beneath equality with God, and took the form of a servant.
All throughout the New Testament, the idea of serving others is prevalent. In fact, it is the very idea of “serving others” that defines what it means to be a true believer. Jesus himself spoke of how God would separate the sheep from the goats based on how they served others.
You can read this in Matthew 25, but for the purpose of this post, my point is that Jesus was saying that true believers are recognized by their service to others. Not because their service saves them, but because their service is an outward expression of the radical change that took place inside of them.
One who is truly humble servers others. And this is patterned after the life of Jesus who was neither weak nor quiet. He simply humbled himself as God to serve man so that we might have a right relationship with God.
I wasn’t serving others when I would blast off on social media without real consideration for my readers. I was serving myself. I found that my more controversial things would draw more attention than my less controversial things. And if I’m honest, I liked the attention.
While some learned from what I was saying, others were offended and hurt. And I was serving them by doing that. My hope is in the future that I will be cognizant of those around me that I take greater care with my words, no matter how true, to ensure that I have taken every precaution to serve others with my words rather than serve myself.
Obviously, I can’t control how everyone will receive what I have said, but if I have taken the steps to ensure that what I have said is done with humility and others in mind, then I know that I have done what I can on my part to speak the truth in love. Which is all God is asking of me.
TRAIT 3: Is obedient even to the point of death. (verse 8)
In verse 8, Paul tells us that Jesus was humbled by becoming obedient to God, even to the point of death.
In other words, true biblical humility carries with it the act of obedience to God. Humility doesn’t exist outside of this framework. It may “look” humble. But if the actions of another are not done in obedience to God, they are done out of selfish ambition and therefore truly aren’t humble.
By the time I had written my apology letter, I had prayed over what to do and listened to the voice of God to tell me what to do. I laid awake that night and in the middle of the night, I can clearly say that God impressed on me that the only way to address my public failure was to address it publicly. So, the next morning I set out to write that letter.
No, writing that letter was not the death of me. But, I felt that it was my responsibility in being obedient to God and seeking to right the wrongs with others as He would have us all do when we have hurt another.
All three (3) of these traits can be summed up with this statement: being humble is considering others over yourself.
That’s it. Nothing weak about that.
And this indeed is a GREAT strength of the church…when it is actually applied.
The problem is, the Church struggles mightily in this area. And this is why “humility” is also its greatest weakness. Rather, it isn’t “humility” itself that is the weakness of the church, but the absence of “humility” that is her weakness.
It’s a pride issue. We don’t want to admit we are wrong on something. We don’t want to admit that we are capable of hurting others. After all, we are bearing the truth…shouldn’t that count for something?
It does! Truth should never be compromised.
But the delivery of the truth is every bit as important as the truth itself. The spirit in which we deliver the truth, and the way we deliver the truth is what makes the difference.
And this is the hard lesson I have personally come to learn. And I hope that you will take what I have learned, through my own pain, and address it in yourself before it becomes a problem for you. Learn from my mistakes. That’s all I’m asking!