Thank God for Humiliation
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Oct 09
No one wants to be humiliated. Most of us are willing to do whatever it takes to keep from being humiliated.
Sometimes we try to lose those extra pounds before we go to the beach on vacation (more of us should be worried about this one). Sometimes, we'll exercise a little more before the big church picnic. Sometimes, we'll try to joke our way out of a potentially humiliating situation. In other words, our pride's self-defense mechanisms kick in just to avoid being humiliated.
It is that pride that makes humiliation a good thing. I'm not talking about the kind of humiliation that comes with realizing your zipper has been down all day long. With the Puritans, I'm talking about the kind of humiliation that comes when you realize that your every sin has been made public before a holy God. We're talking about the kind of humiliation that goes beyond embarassment to anguish. The Puritans called this "evangelical humiliation."
Evangelical humiliation is something we all must go through, not for growth, but for salvation. You see, if you're not embarassed by your sins, you'll never seek the protective covering of Christ's sacrifice. If you're not humbled by the realization that God knows every deed you've ever done and every thought you've ever thought, you'll never realize the eternal situation you're in.
Without evangelical humiliation, you will one day stand before Christ on the judgment seat and talk with great pride of all the wonderful things you've ever done. And, after listening patiently to your pathetic vita (that's Latin for "life"), Christ will raise a hand to stop your me-centered monologue in its tracks. With the wave of that hand, he'll utter those devestating words, "Depart from me for I never knew you." Talk about being caught with your zipper down.
Evangelical humiliation is a good thing. Evangelical humiliation is a necessary thing. There's no salvation without it. Remember, in the Beattitudes, Jesus talks about the humble, the lowly, those who mourn. Only those who've been humiliated in this greatest of senses knows anything about those emotions for which Jesus calls.
Evangelical humiliation also calls for something else. Evangelical humiliation calls for evangelistic preaching.
I'm not talking about those feel-good pep talks that pass for preaching in many circles. I'm not talking about sermons that tell you everything you ever wanted to know about being a good husband or a great employee. I'm talking about sermons that point out the vileness of the human soul, sermons that highlight the lowlights of sins, sermons that call our wickedness what it really is, an offense against the perfect holiness of a God who is a consuming fire. What we need is preaching that deals with sin as honestly as God will wrathfully (I don't apologize if that excludes your favorite television preacher).
Without preaching that confronts our sinfulness, we will never be forced to confront our sinfulness. Without an awareness of and humiliation for our sinfulness, we can never stand before God with a confidence that will never embarass, a confidence in the Christ of our redemption.
A little humiliation may be good for your ego. A lot of evangelical humiliation is good for your soul.