Perhaps you know this person? They walk into a room and say, “I am so perfect, I only have four flaws. One, I lack humility; B, I am inconsistent; and I can’t count.”
Pastor Ben Cachiaras asked the congregation, “How are you doing with your humility?”
Cachiaras gave the homily for the morning devotional service at 9:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 25, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. His homily title was “The Separation of Church and Hate: Demonstrate HUMILITY.” The scripture text was James 4:10-11 (NRSV) —
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”
Cachiaras said, “Everyone believes their opinion is logical, clear, factual, obvious — and if you don’t agree, you are just wrong and stupid. That kind of thinking adds to the intensity of our world.”
Jesus is the only one who could roll his eyes at human behavior because he suffered and gave us an example and told us to follow in his footsteps, Cachiaras said.
In Philippians, Paul wrote that Jesus lowered himself from perfection and sacrificed for the world. In John 13, Jesus has a final meal with the disciples and washes their feet. In Mark 10, the disciples argue about who is most important and Jesus told them they were supposed to be different. In each case, Jesus said, “Walk in my footsteps. I came to serve, not be served.”
Cachiaras said that being humble “is not being a doormat. It means to be so filled with the light and power of Christ, that you do not need to defend yourself because you are not offended. Jesus turns hostility into humility.”
He told the virtual congregation, “our identity in Christ tells us how we should treat people. We may have a good reason for our opinions, but we should hold them loosely and not insist there is only one way.”
Too often Christians say, “How can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t see things like I do?”
Cachiaras said, “It is ignorant and arrogant to call someone stupid. None of us is the smartest person in the room. There are an array of factors that shape each of our lives. To be humble means to say, ‘I am finite, not all-knowing.’”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote “now I see through the glass darkly, one day I will see with clarity.”
“Now is partial and incomplete; we don’t know everything. A pastor friend told me he was tired of all the people who knew exactly how the schools and churches should open … despite the fact that none of us has been through a pandemic before,” Cachiaras said.
Really smart, God-fearing, Bible-reading, devoted followers of Christ don’t always agree, but in humility they can live with those disagreements and even grow and change.
“The end for Jesus in living in humility is to restore our relationship with God,” Cachiaras said. “If we care more about our position, our policy, about being right than we do about people, we miss the point of Jesus’ humility. It was always about people and restoring the relationship with God.”
In Hebrews 4, the writer said that Jesus was not a high priest unable to show empathy, but stepped up and showed humility. Jesus was tested as we are, but did not sin.
“Jesus opens the possibility of reconciliation with God. Through him we can approach the throne to receive mercy and grace in a time of need. Are you walking in the ways of God?” Cachiaras asked the congregation. “Can someone who disagrees with you also approach the throne and expect grace?”
He continued, “We are called to show that same love, empathy and understanding.”
One way to show that love and empathy is to really listen. “When we label someone, we are saying we are done with them, they are ‘one of those people,’” Cachiarias said.
Jesus calls us to love those people, to let him lift us up. Cachiaras said to the congregation, “Humility is not losing, it is not weakness, it is not cowardly. Jesus set aside his perfect self to become a bridge for us to God.”
Cachiaras told a story about a Bible study that took place in his living room. One participant was a Black man who had grown up in inner city Baltimore, and another was a white police officer in the same city. Both had strong opinions and either one could have thrown gas on the fire of those opinions.
As they listened to each other, they threw away the labels and began to become friends. They listened to each other to get past the fear and stereotypes they had of each other. “One night the bridge of relationship, held up by the trusses of trust, was strong enough to hold the truth,” Cachiaras said.
The men were humbled, they hugged and cried because they had broken down a wall. “Picture this when you practice humility. It doesn’t just happen once; it happens over and over again,” he said.
The Rev. J. Paul Womack, a retired United Methodist minister and cohost of the United Methodist House in Chautauqua, presided at the service from the Hall of Christ. Chautauqua interim organist Joshua Stafford played “Psalm 37,” by Emma Lou Diemer, for the organ prelude on the Tallman Tracker Organ. The hymn was “Most High, Omnipotent, Good Lord,” sung by guest artist Amanda Lynn Bottoms. Stafford played “Psalm 61,” by Diemer, for the anthem. The organ postlude, played by Stafford, was “Psalm 103,” by Diemer. This week’s services are sponsored by the Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion and the Daney-Holden Memorial Chaplaincy.