Good morning, Friends.
Today we’re going to wind up with the last in this series of three studies we’ve been doing on a single verse. We’ve looked at justice, and mercy. Today we going to look at the third requirement: walking humbly.
Sometimes it seems as though the list of what God wants just goes on and on. Obey all of these commandments. Pray a lot. Give regularly. Get born again. It can all seem pretty overwhelming.
But you know, it’s supposed to be simple. Ordinary people can understand and do what God wants. We can know, with confidence, that we’re headed in the right direction.
Jesus used to say that God only requires two things – love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else comes from these. (Matthew 22:36-40)
The verse we’ve been working on says we need to do three things. That’s still not a lot.
“Do justice,” says God. Justice is not me getting revenge. Justice is putting things right, in God’s way.
“Love mercy.” That’s what we talked about last week – preferring mercy, out of all the other choices we can make. And then today, “walk humbly”. Notice that word, walk. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a journey.
Justice is what God the Creator requires. It’s doing things God’s way. It’s rejecting what’s wrong. It’s following God’s plan. It’s refusing to go along with evil.
Mercy is what Jesus came for. Jesus came to teach us and show us what mercy and forgiveness are all about. Jesus lived that. And the resurrection shows us just how strong the power of mercy can be.
Walking humbly is what the Holy Spirit teaches us, every day. When we walk day by day with the Spirit, we learn about humility.
So we’ve got justice, mercy, and humility. Or, we’ve got God the Creator, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if that helps to give us a handle on what we’ve been talking about, to kind of help pull it all together. Here’s our Scripture again:
He has showed you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?Micah 6:8
Let’s talk about walking humbly. It seems like kind of a no-brainer, at first glance.
Of course we should walk humbly! What else would we do?
Last week, when we talked about mercy, part of the idea was that mercy comes from our understanding of the common condition we are in along with everyone else. Humility has some of that same idea. We are no better than everyone else. But we’re no worse, either.
The words humble and humility come from the same Latin word, humus, which means earth or soil.
Jesus used to say, “Blessed are the meek (or the humble) for they shall inherit the earth. . .” (Matthew 5:5) It almost feels like there’s a play on words going on here. “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the humus.”
We are all made from the same common clay, the dirt, the ordinary elements from which all human beings are created. “Walking humbly” means recognizing where we’re from.
It takes us all the way back to the story of creation, where God formed human beings out of the soil, sort of like making mud pies, and then God breathed into us, giving us life.
We are all a combination of the ordinary and the holy, the common clay and the Holy Spirit. One of the prayers of the Bible says, we are just a little lower than the angels. But we are also deeply ordinary. We are all tied to our bodies, and our bodies have needs. We can’t pretend that we are more than human.
You can contrast humility with arrogance. Everybody knows it’s wrong to be arrogant. It’s easy to spot in other people. Wish it was easy to spot in the mirror.
The Bible talks often about the sin of pride. Not an ordinary, healthy sense of self-worth, but pride that makes us think we’re better than everyone else, that we stand up above the crowd, because we’re smarter, or richer, or come from a better race. The Bible rejects that sort of pride completely.
Any time we think we’re holier than other people, or more deserving, or more enlightened – it’s time to watch out.
Humility means recognizing who we are – no better, no worse. A false or exaggerated sense of sinfulness can be as harmful as a mistaken sense of pride.
Yes, we are all sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) But I don’t have a lot of use for preaching that harps all the time about how sinful people are, tries too hard to make us feel bad.
If you go back and look at Micah again, we’re not supposed to be humble. We are called to walk humbly. It’s a journey. It’s a lifestyle, as we’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks. It’s a lifestyle, like justice and mercy. And we don’t walk humbly by ourselves. We walk humbly, with God.
Humility means knowing, all the time, that God exists. And compared with God, we are all pretty tiny. We’re not nothing. But God is so great, and we are so small.
We’re limited. We’re mortal. We make mistakes. We’re far from perfect. We need forgiveness, every day.
And God is so much greater than we are. It’s beyond our imagination. All we have to do is stop, and look at God, and we’re humble. Our instinct, when we meet God, is always to kneel, to bow, and to be quiet.
It’s a life journey. It’s a way to live. And humility is a journey where God is close to us.
Because God is great. But God is also humble. Jesus showed us what humility meant, when he called his friends together for the Last Supper. Do you all remember that story?
It says that Jesus got up from the supper table, and put his good clothes aside, and he wrapped a towel around his waist, so that he was dressed like a slave, like the lowest servant in the house.
Then he poured water into a basin, and washed the feet of his friends, and wiped them dry with the towel he was wearing.
Then he said, “Do you know what I have done? You call me Teacher and Lord; and that’s right. That’s who I am. If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, then you ought to wash one another’s feet. This is an example. You should do what I have done for you.” (see John 13:1-15)
In our cousins, the Church of the Brethren, they take that commandment literally. Footwashing is a part of how they celebrate communion.
I have been to their services. The men and women sit in separate circles. Everyone takes off their shoes and socks.
Then they bring in a big dish pan and a big pouring pitcher of water, and one at a time they take turns washing each others’ feet.
In their church, that’s the most important part of communion. It puts the emphasis on service. It’s a very humbling act, to kneel down and wash someone else’s feet. If Quakers ever had sacraments here, that’s the first one that I’d include – footwashing.
Walking humbly, I said before, means walking. Do you remember those stories where Jesus tells people, “Follow me. . .”? Following Jesus is an invitation to walk Jesus’ way, to learn about servanthood, and to learn by doing, which is always the best way.
Jesus walked everywhere he went. He didn’t ride in a chariot, or in a luxury vehicle, like a king. He walked, and he got dirty and dusty and tired along the way.
Jesus didn’t associate with kings or rich people. He hung out with ordinary people, and he gave them his blessing. There was no home that was too poor or too humble for Jesus to come and visit.
Jesus stopped at a well, and asked a woman if she would please pour him a drink of cool water. He stopped at a country wedding, and he made sure the wine didn’t run out.
Jesus reached out and laid his hands on people with really awful diseases like leprosy. He wasn’t afraid to touch them.
Do you see what I’m saying? Jesus didn’t preach humility. He lived it. And he said, “You do the same.”
Jesus said, “The greatest among you is the least. The greatest of all is the servant of all.”
Many people hear those words and decide that in their life calling, they want to serve others, whether in health care, or education, or public service.
Other people hear these words from the Bible, and decide to be content with a simple standard of living. It’s possible to enjoy life without being rich or having a lot of things.
A big part of humility has to do with admitting our own mistakes, and apologizing, and trying to do better, and forgiving the mistakes of others.
How do we walk, following in the footsteps of Jesus? I think we try to do some of the same things. We teach. We heal. We bring comfort. We listen. We forgive. And especially, we pray.
Prayer helps us to walk humbly. Prayer gives us quiet hearts – hearts at peace. Prayer brings us close to the love of God, and perfect love casts out fear.
Prayer says, “I can’t – but God can!”
Prayer says, “The storm is raging, Lord – buy you’re greater than the storm. I’m scared, Lord, I’m anxious and terrified – but I trust in you.”
One of the weird things about humility is that it’s invisible. Nobody puts humility on their resume. It’s like saying, “I’m proud to be a humble Quaker!” As soon as anybody starts bragging about their humility, you know it’s not real.
Walking humbly means giving God the credit for everything. Any strength, any success, any insight or understanding – it’s all God’s doing. God is the one who lifts me up, who helps me stand, who opens my eyes and makes me see.
We have covered an awful lot of ground these three weeks. I’d like us to come together into our time of open worship, and think about all that we’ve looked at together.
“God has showed us what is good; and what does the Lord require, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God?”