Two acquaintances apologized to me for words they had misspoken. Do you know how I felt about those two women after their apologies? I labeled them courageous and obedient. Their “word” infractions were what I would categorize as minor, and yet, they saw the need to make corrections. Their consciences indicted them and they immediately made sure to ask me to strike their words from my memory. One woman was 88 and apologized by phone, and the other woman was also a senior citizen and apologized in person.
During the writing of this series of newspaper articles on humility, a collection of 52 by the end of 2012, I am seeing and hearing many acts of humility. I recognize them more readily now. The Lord has also pried open my eyes to my own prideful ways: when I speak, what I assume about people, and my response in hostile or sensitive situations. With his holy help, I’m learning that my pride often keeps me from immediately asking one I’ve offended for forgiveness. I long to obey the minute God nudges me and reminds me of my sin.
I’ve learned that an apology is most effective when I also confess my specific sin: “I’m sorry I snapped at you. My response to you was wrong.” Pride keeps one from saying, “I shouldn’t have behaved like that. Forgive me, please?”—words that bring us back into relationship with God and man. I can imagine the more mature Adam and Eve, kneeling, faces upturned to God, shedding tears and saying, “We’re sorry.” Perhaps Sarah later told God, “I’m sorry for ignoring your promise and trying to fix our infertility through an Egyptian maiden.” If one is in tune with the humility of God, whenever realization of sin takes place, confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness also happens.
Working on spiritual disciplines remains difficult, no easier than crawling out of a warm bed on a cold morning to exercise the body. A lazy Christian easily drifts in life, hops on an inner tube of passivity, and floats along without purposefully training his or her heart to stay in tune with God’s Spirit. Our ancient brother Paul struggled with the same temptations we do, but he took a proactive approach to outwit sin. The Amplified Version and The Message say in 1 Corinthians 9:27:
But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].
I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
In my home congregation, our 2012 congregational theme is Philippians 4:8-9. There, Paul further instructs his fellow disciples in a personal disciplining method by thinking excellent and praiseworthy thoughts: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable.
When God nudges you, reminding of a wrongdoing, learn to say, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please.” It is a humble and truthful thing to say. It is a noble thing to say. It is right to say. It is a pure way of expressing regret and asking for forgiveness.
It is lovely.
It is admirable.
Hunger for Humility (9): “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).