I saw a quote from Charles Spurgeon the other day that was posted by some reformed social media account. What follows is a summary. “If someone speaks ill of you don’t be upset. You are far worse than he has said.” This morning in my reading in the Imitation of Christ I read Thomas a’ Kempis’ version of this statement. What follows is a direct quote (I updated it to modern English). “What answer, wretched sinner, can you give to someone that accuses you? You who have so often offended God, and so very many times deserved Hell?”
It is helpful for us to always remain humble in every situation. One way to do this is to keep in mind how I have offended God rather than how I have offended the person in front of me. The person maybe mistaken as to their perception, but God is always true and I am always a liar. If I keep my offenses before God in view rather than the perceived slights of men, the choice of humility can be made more easily and on firmer ground.
This is helpful I think in applying the Apostle Peter’s command in 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.” There can be no exaltation if we are not first brought low. And our exaltation is in reputation among men, which cannot occur if we are not humble before them. The way to do this is to keep the truth of our offenses against God in mind, and to not concern ourselves much with the truth or no concerning our offenses against men. Humility is a hard choice if it is only before men. And we will hardly ever make it if it is on their account alone. But, before a loving and holy God, bowing our head and un-stiffening our necks should be an easier choice. Over time, as we learn the ways of God and experience the benefits of living in God’s truth, the choice of humility can become in grained in the soul’s spiritual muscle memory. It can become a spiritual reflex. When humility is a reflex grace becomes a constant. When grace is a constant, growth in Christ can become exponential. This is why humility is a “cornerstone virtue” in the Christian faith. Let me close with the Apostle James. Here he summarizes in short form what I have laid out above in a slightly longer teaching.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-9)