A few months ago there was a nation wide youth event that I attended as a leader. A friend and colleague who ministers in Vancouver and I were standing in the back during the last meeting. One of the youth directors was leading a prayer session inviting the youth to look upon God’s grace and mercy.
This person had been up front several times during the weekend and there was a theme to everything he/she had said. It was all along the lines, “when I think about how bad I am…”, “when I think about how sinful I am…”, “I am constantly falling short…”. I knew the person personally so I knew he/she was not going through a crisis. But I could see through the words. He/she was trying to speak to the heart of the kids. Kids often feel this way and he/she was trying to create solidarity with the kids.
My friend, who did not know the youth director so well, turned to me and said, “this person really thinks low of him/herself. Someone should probably pray for him/her.” I did not say anything but I was thinking the same thing. But I have realized that in our tradition we have emphasized the sinner so strongly some people have concluded that they must continue sinning if they are to stay humble or loathe themselves.
There is a prominent misconception in the church about what it means to be humble and meek. Some think it means to be a pushover and others think it means you have to think low of yourself. “The more we see the glory of God the more we see how sinful we are and thus are humbled by His majesty.” As true as this is, we can’t be unbalanced. Jesus is our example of humility and meekness but he was never tormented by sinful unworthiness. Jesus is our example of true humility therefore we should pay attention to Him and learn from Him. Humility has to be more than just thinking we are garbage. In fact, that is unhealthy.
Rick Warren summed up humility very well his book The Purpose Driven Life, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Andrew Murray in his timeless book Humility urged the reader in the preface, “It is necessary to understand that it is not sin that humbles most, but grace.”
In Matthew 5:5 Jesus taught, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The word meek does not mean “pushover” as some mistaken. The Greeks called their horses praüs, or meek once the horse mastered it’s training. Horses were trained to be obedient and composed in the heat of battle and once the horse could be trusted it was deemed a meek horse. Meek horses were powerful, thoroughbred stallions capable of killing enemies in battle.
Meekness is both obedience to it’s master and disciplined strength. Yes we are sinners and we should be humbled and marvelled by his majesty, but what should humble us is his mercy, grace and love for us not our insecure perception about ourselves.
Let us be humble and meek, not self-loathing.