Sermon preached by
The Reverend Charles Royden
5 July 1998
We can probably think of names for perfume. Today I would like to imagine a perfume called 'Humility'. (A Bottle of perfume is displayed and the name of the perfume is 'Humility'). Like a normal perfume you put it on in the morning and it makes a difference to the kind of person that you are. However instead of being making you more alluring in a physical sense, this perfume 'Humility' changes the kind of person you are from the inside. And its a unisex thing, perfume for men and women. You put on 'Humility' and you will become different. I have thought of four ways that people who use 'Humility' will be different.
People who use 'Humility' will be able to say sorry
Humble people are never so right that they do not need to say sorry, they do not think that they are so right that they do not require God's forgiveness. They understand the meaning of a confession at the start of our service. If we are humble we know that we make mistakes, we all do. It costs nothing to say sorry, why are we so reluctant to do so? Perhaps it is about personal esteem and feeling that it is to loose face in the eyes of others, to admit that we were wrong. Human pride refuses to say sorry, people who use 'Humility' are willing to say sorry. They do not find excuses for their behaviour or blame others
People who use 'Humility' don't worry trying to impress other people
Use 'Humility' and you will not need to be boastful or overconfident. You need not worry about being ordinary and this is an essential part of being humble. God likes ordinary people that's why he made so many of them. As babies we begin life understanding that we can make people approve of us and win favour, you can make people love you by what you do, you can earn approval. This is a lesson which many people never seem to grow out of, always wondering about what other people think of them. Many people think that the only way to be loved and appreciated is to work hard and perform well. Is that one of the reasons why people work so hard? Is to do with our loss of the belief in ourselves as God created, God loved. Perhaps the greatest reason for some people striving after worldly success is their own insecurity with themselves. Surely if we are happy and contented with ourselves then there is no need for striving for worldly success and approval?
We need to realise that God 'knows us completely and loves us unconditionally', just for who we are. Each one of us is God made, hand made by God, and he doesn't make rubbish. When we put on 'Humility' it is not a negative thing, it is rather something which can empower us. 'Humility' is not about low self-esteem, it doesn't mean that we are content to be walked over. Low self-esteem finds itself with the need to prove ourselves and if we have low self esteem we fear doing things publicly because we will risk criticism. 'Humility' allows us to be at peace in our eyes and in God's eyes. 'Humility' means that we are not worried about trying to impress in the eyes of others. May I never boast said Paul except in the cross of Jesus Christ Galatians 6:14.
'Humility' does not mean abusing ourselves we must know that God loves us the way that we are. Some people are frightened that if they act themselves people won't like them, but actually we should not be so concerned. With God we have nothing to prove and so we can fully relax and be ourselves As an ordained minister I know that often we are conditioned to behave as people would expect, you are pressed into a mould and it takes a little thought and courage to be able to say that God wants us to be ourselves!
People who use 'Humility' are prepared to learn
They don't think that they know it all. They don't pretend that they have so much wisdom that they do not need correction. This is a bit of a tightrope, we must be prepared to listen to criticisms which people make of us but at the end we stand before God and it is his judgement that counts. We listen to the criticism of friends, people who don't enjoy criticising us but who want to build us up. Of course some people are just not very helpful but if we use 'Humility' we will be able to take helpful advice and sincere instruction.
People who use 'Humility' are gentle with others
Humble people don't criticise but are gentle with others failure. If we use 'Humility' we begin to realise that we are not so talented as not to require grace ourselves. We all make mistakes and if we have a good spray of 'Humility' we can honestly say 'there but for the grace of God go I'. And so if we are humble we are automatically more tolerant of others and what we might perceive to be their weaknesses.
Of course it is not really possible to spray yourself with 'Humility', I wish that it was. However if we ask for God's help each day before we go out we can put on real 'HUMILITY' and it can stay with us and never wear off. It will take real commitment and yet it will empower us and make us much better people to live with, for ourselves and for others. Of course that will make us much more attractive and we might not need expensive perfumes at all.
If we open our eyes and look at ourselves honestly there are probably lots of things which are not good about ourselves. We may not be exactly the way that we would like to be. But it is possible to change and become better than we are. As Christians when we want to know how God wants us to live we can always look at the life of Jesus. So also the best we can do to find a model of humility is to look at Jesus. In the Christ Hymn in Philippians Chapter 2 verse 6—The Bible tells us that Jesus 'humbled himself'. He did not consider glory something to be grasped but was willing to empty himself, become poor and despised for us. We see in Jesus someone who did not Lord it over others. The most wonderful example of divine love is simply that God is prepared to be humble and ultimately to die for you and me.