Remember Your Humility
It’s hard to be humble. As Christians, we know there are these traits we are supposed to have and these actions we are supposed to take. But it’s hard, isn’t it? In our words from Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul tells Titus: “1 Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” (Titus 3:1–2 CSB17)
Isn’t it fascinating that our situation as humans never changes. It’s hard to submit to the authorities. Our leaders in our nation sometimes make shortsighted laws that only seem to exist to get them elected two years down the road, not to make our nation better 2o years down the road. It’s hard to be humble. We try to get to church on time, but, especially at night, people wont’ let us turn left onto Minnewashta, or they cut us off. It’s hard to not be angry. But notice what Paul tells us here. He reminds us to be humble. And then, after Paul does this. He follows with two important reasons why we are to remember our humility: “For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.” (Titus 3:3 CSB17)
Paul starts out by reminding us to be humble. And he gives us a real reason to remember this by remembering what we were. It is so easy to say, “look at them—how wrong they are.” But Paul does not direct our focus outward. Instead, he focuses our focus inward. In the congregation that Titus served most of the People could remember a time when they were not Christians. For many of us here this morning, we cannot remember that because we were brought into God’s family at a very early age. But for those who can, this would have been piercing, paralyzing words. For life outside of Christ is a terrifying existence. But even for us who cannot remember our life before, we do know what it is like right now to be a Christian and at the same time have a sinful nature. And in that context we need to say the same as Paul, “We—also we used to be them.”1 And all throughout our lives we see reminders of this. Last week Priscilla’s school went on a school trip to go downhill skiing. And I got to be a chaperone. And at the bottom of the ski lift there was a boy who took a short cut. There was a line that was for the ski patrol. But the kid shuffled his way through that empty line to the front. A bunch of his friends told him he was in the wrong line. And he ignored them. When I saw all this I got really angry. Finally, when the boy realized he couldn’t ignore his friends, he looked up. And one of his friends say, “you cannot use that line.” And with such arrogance and pride, he said, “Looks like I just did.” And you would think that that statement would make me angry. But instead it filled me with sadness and fear. Why? I remembered times, when I was his age, that I cut in line. And when I did, those are the exact words that I said. And I felt so sorry for something I did 30+ years ago.
One of the challenges about being a Christian is that, the longer we are Christians, and the more we study God’s word, the more we see our sin. And the more it hurts. And so, one of the ways we are moved to remember our humility is to remember that we—even we sin. And in many ways, we have less of an excuse than unbelievers have because we have read God’s word and we should know better. And so, Paul reminds us of our humility by reminding us what we were before. But from there he goes in a different direction: “4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7 CSB17)
Paul tells us to remember what we were. But then Paul reminds us to remember what we are now in our baptisms. The kindness of our Savior and God appeared. And what follows then is a what, why, how pattern. What did Jesus do? He saved us from our sins. By having and using the humility we did not have as we came into this world he covers us our lack of humility. By dying on the cross he pay for our lack of humility. What did Jesus do about our sin? He saved us by paying for it. What follows then is the why question. Jesus saved us “in line with his mercy.” There have been countless times we should have been kind, but we were selfish, or showed self-control, and instead lived for our passions and pleasures. And so, God saved us not because he saw anything good in us. Instead, he saved us “in line with his mercy.” And finally there’s the how question. Jesus dies there on the cross. But that’s where his salvation stays unless it is delivered to us. So God reaches out with his word and delivers that forgiveness to us. And in these words what Paul specifically emphasizes is the washing of Baptism. In Baptism we are given renewal and rebirth. In baptism the forgiveness won there travels to here—in my heart, mind, and soul. In baptism I become an heir of eternal life. In baptism I am renewed, revitalized, and reborn to lead a godly life.
And so it is good and right for us to remember and speak about baptism as this great gift that delivers salvation to us. For that’s what these words say. But it is also good for us to remember the other promise here. In baptism we are reborn and revitalized to lead a godly life. The humility we didn’t have before, we now have in baptism. The result of this is that, alongside this old-self inside of us that lives for passions and pleasures, self-seeking and self-worshipping—alongside that old self is a new self born of this washing in baptism. And this new self is humble. All of this is a gift of baptism.
Paul reminds us to remember to be humble. This happens first of all when we remember what we were—and in our old sinful self, still are. But this also happens when we remember what we are. In our God and Savior Jesus Christ we are given a baptism of water and word. And in that baptism salvation isn’t just won. It is also given to us. And in that baptism we are given a new birth to lead a godly life.
So then, with all of this in mind, remember your humility. Those living in darkness do not have your light. Those living selfish lives need your humility. The ones that hate you need to see your humility. And even more, they need to see the reason for your humility, both your reminders of what you were and also what you are now in your baptisms. Remember your humility. In Christ and in those waters of baptism you have this humility. Now use it.
1 “ⲏⲙⲉⲛⲅⲁⲣⲡⲟⲧⲉ Ⲕⲁⲓⲏⲙⲉⲓⲥ·” (Titus 3:3 GNT-ALEX)