In New Orleans, a local preacher of unknown (to me) background made a name for himself for his public protests against the gay-and-lesbian community. He would use a bullhorn–yep, you read that right–and blare out his preachings and condemnations upon the paraders and onlookers.
Not a very effective witness for the wonderful Lord Jesus Christ, if you ask me.
Then one day, that preacher was arrested in a park where children go to play, and charged with a public act of indecency.
In his defense, the preacher said he mows lawns and does landscaping and–you’ll pardon the expression–carries a “pee jar” with him to relieve his physical needs. And that that’s what he was doing.
Witnesses claim he was being more active than that. He was arrested and charged.
In his defense, he held a news conference to tell his story. He admitted to having a problem with pornography.
He was humiliated. And he was humbled.
That’s so painful. But it might be the best thing that ever happened to him.
A few days later, the newspaper printed his public apology.
When I look back, the preacher told the media, there’s a lot of things I would have done differently. I was so proudful. I was very arrogant. I was very mean-spirited at times. And I apologize.
I’ll ‘fess up to my shortcomings, and whatever they say against me, they can say it. They have every right now to say it.
He asked his wife and four adult children to forgive him.
There’s nothing like a public humiliation to take the wind out of our sails.
What we hope is that this man will go on to become a mature brother in the Lord and walk back into that community where he made such a spectacle of himself and the Lord’s cause and become part of the answer, and not another of the problems.
Humility. It’s in far too short supply these days in every strata of life, but even in the ministry where one would think we would have enough to export.
Take Moses, a man God used in incredible ways. Now, the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Take the Lord Jesus Himself. I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matthew 11:29)
Better yet, do not take me.
And, if you will allow me to say so, we’ll not be taking you either.
You and I struggle with this all the time, don’t we?
And it’s not because we are people of such great acclaim and attainments. It’s not necessary to have published best-sellers and belong to the speakers’ jet set to have a pride problem.
It’s a human condition that besets hermits on islands and stalks rulers in palaces. It afflicts celebrities and waitresses, congressional staffs and janitorial crews, seminary faculties and homeless shelters.
Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. (I Peter 5:6)
Did you get that? For the moment, forget the promise that the Lord will exalt the one who humbles himself.
Focus on the command: Humble yourselves.
This is not a task you will want to be asking the Lord to do for you. When God humbles people, He does so with a mighty hand. Sometimes, people don’t survive the experience.
–Think of the comeuppance God gave the too-big-for-his-britches King Saul in I Samuel.
–Consider what He did to Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s almighty ruler who was reduced to grazing with the goats. (Daniel 4)
It’s much better–and a whole lot easier–if we do it ourselves. We are to humble ourselves.
Humility is a DIY project.
And just how would we go about doing that?
1) Take a good look at the Lord. That does it for most people.
When Isaiah saw the Lord in all His majesty and holiness, the next thing he saw was his own sorry condition. “Then said I, ‘Woe is me. I am undone. I’m a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people just like me. For my eyes have seen the King.” (Isa. 6:5)
2) Focus on the Lord and not on you.
The end of Romans 11 and the beginning of Romans 12 were originally written as a unit with no break in between. They work well that way.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!…. For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
3) Do tangible things to reinforce the humility you have chosen.
Go serve the homeless. Do random acts of kindness. Take down those plaques of achievement from the wall and store them in a closet–or better yet, trash them. And do not tell anyone that you did it!
4) Look at your speech. Cleanse it of its egotism.
Never be caught guilty of saying “She (or it or they) made me the person I am today.” The ego in that is humongous.
We pastors like people to know about our degrees and the number of people in our churches. We call attention to the numbers who responded to the gospel invitations on our mission trips. And we do it from the purest of motives. Mostly.
Actually, a person’s motives can be a stew composed of joy in the Lord, the desire to please God, a love for people, and a need to fulfill the ministry to which we were called. Stirred in with those are pride, conceit, insecurity, a competitive streak, ego, and what the KJV called “vainglory.”
Billy Graham used to say, “Hundreds of you are coming.” We could easily see the numbers were in the thousands. But he chose the smaller expression.
5) Repeat tomorrow. It’s a daily thing.
Yesterday’s humbling of yourself before the Lord will not suffice for today. The human heart is a congenital rebel, a determined force, an unrelenting master. Its pride will not go away easily, will not admit defeat permanently, and will not leave you alone for long.
Remembering the humbled preacher in New Orleans, I’d like to pose two considerations for any man or woman of God who would take a public position in opposition to sinful practices…
–1) Take a good honest look at your life.
Are you consistently living for Christ? Or, are there secret sins which, if others knew about them, would bring embarrassment to the people who love you and the cause you are espousing?
It’s a part of courage for you to admit, “I’m not qualified,” when asked to speak out on some issues. That’s all. You do not have to go into detail and explain to the person who asked you to man a bullhorn or carry a sign why you are not the person to do this. Just say it and stand by it. Better yet, just say, “No, thank you.” And leave it there.
–2) Took a good honest look at your spirit.
If your life is all right–if there are no inconsistencies which could bring dishonor to you or your Lord or your cause–and you decide to go public on that issue, then consider your spirit.
Be humble about it. Be sweet-spirited. Love the sinner, while standing firm in the position you hold.
Let no one attack you for being mean-spirited. Such spokesmen bring shame to the Lord whom they claim to be representing.
Bear in mind that the daily newspaper and your local television absolutely love to catch a Christian worker in some major hypocrisy. You’ll make the evening news and tomorrow’s front page.
So, don’t do it. That’s the last thing the churches in your area, the sincere witnesses for the Lord, and the cause of Christ in general, need.
When David sinned with Bathsheba, then committed manslaughter to cover it up, the prophet Nathan confronted him. Among the numerous charges he lay at David’s doorstep was this one: By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. (I Samuel 12:14)
When the world scoffs at the fallen preacher and laughs at the hypocritical witness, it is clearly and intentionally blaspheming God.
The enemy feels vindicated in his unbelief when God’s people get it wrong.
Better to be quiet than to bring shame and dishonor upon The Name above all names.
“Lord, forgive us. Keep us on our knees, make us like Jesus, clothe us in humility and thy righteousness. For Jesus’ sake.”