I have observed a confusion in Christians about humility. Okay, I haven’t only observed it, I’ve experienced it myself.
The confusion is this:
- The Bible tells us we should be humble. So when we feel guilt about something we have done we confess into God and apologise.
- But we think that getting up off the floor and going on with our lives would be proud and arrogant.
- So we continue to feel guilty and we heap metaphorical ashes on our head and lie on the ground smothered by shame.
We think we are being humble by continuing to feel bad about our sin, but in fact we are showing a lack of faith and a complete misinterpretation of God’s love.
The parable Jesus tells in Luke 18:9-14 about the proud Pharisee and the humble tax-collector is often misinterpreted to support the idea that we should beat our breast and cry out to God in despair at our own sinfulness. But we forget that Jesus says the tax-collector goes home “justified before God.” Do we really think this guy continues to mourn his guilt all the way home? Do we imagine him at the dinner table crying into his meal after he’s been forgiven by God?
In a previous post you’ll notice that I had this confusion, and it caused me terrible trouble. I couldn’t stop myself from believing in God’s great love and forgiveness, but I was drowning in guilt and shame, so instead of trusting His love and accepting His forgiveness I started believing that it was just me that He wouldn’t forgive.
I wish I could write a letter to my past-self. Well I suppose I can, it’s just a shame she can’t read it.
Dear, dear me.
I know you’re going through a whole heap of confused emotional turmoil right now, but I just want to tell you one thing: God has not written you off as a hopeless case.
You still believe in God, but you don’t have faith in His love for you. You have believed Satan’s favourite lie: “God can’t possibly love you.“ But His love is far bigger than all your fear, and the power of His sacrifice is far greater than all your sin. I know these must sound like empty statements right now, but one day you’ll know that they are true and personal.
God has not forsaken you. Your feelings are telling you that He has, but don’t believe them. Cling to Him.
You know Jesus has died to forgive sins. I want to tell you that He has died to forgive your sins too.
Rejoice! In your affliction and pain and sadness, rejoice. For He will not abandon you to the grave. You do not need to fear that you will remain in that darkness forever. Just rest on Him. He has forgiven you, washed you clean, clothed you in the righteousness of Jesus, and embraced you as His daughter. You no longer have to mourn and weep and beat your breast and heap ashes on your head. You can stand up tall because He will hold you up. He will wipe your tears away and fill you with joy. Just be patient.
You, in five years time.
It is not proud or arrogant to trust in God’s forgiveness and live joyful lives. We’ve done our shame-filled confession and cried out to Him and He washed our sin away. Why would we hang on to the sin He has discarded?
As illustrated in this slightly cringe-causing cartoon:
We are now free to live humbly, knowing that it is only by God’s grace that we are saved; and we can walk tall, not out of pride, but out of confidence in Him.