Summary: If you want a happy new year, demonstrate humility in mercy, purity, making peace, and in accepting persecution. Be humble if you want to be happy.
Orla Shup, of Albion, Pennsylvania, was babysitting her pastor’s 3-year-old daughter, playing their favorite game together, Go Fish. One evening, after winning several rounds, the little girl kept bragging about how good she was. Jokingly, Orla Shup said to her, “I'm going to have to teach you a little humility.”
Immediately the little girl looked up and asked, “How do you play that?” (Orla C. Shup, Albion, PA, Today's Christian Woman, “Heart to Heart”)
Last week, we examined the Beatitudes to learn the secret to true happiness, and we discovered that only the humble are truly happy. The first 4 beatitudes make it very clear, if we want to be happy, we must be humble in our attitude towards ourselves; we must be humble in our attitude towards sin; we must be humble in our attitude towards others; and we must be humble in our attitude towards God.
But the question is: What does that humility look like? How does it work itself out in our everyday lives? Or as the little girl put it, “How do you play [humility]?” Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Matthew 5, Matthew 5, where we see what a humble attitude looks like when it is played out in the lives of genuinely humble people.
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (ESV)
Humble people are merciful people. They are sympathetic to the needs of others, because they realize their own needs. And as a result, they themselves are truly “blessed.” So if you want to be truly happy in this new year, then…
DEMONSTRATE HUMILITY IN MERCY.
Show compassion to those who are suffering, and freely forgive those who sin against you. The word for “mercy” encompasses both ideas of forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the needy.
The world says, “Don’t be burdened with other people’s problems; you have enough of your own. Besides, people deserve what they get. Just take care of yourself, and you’ll be happy.” Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful. Oh how happy are those who reach out to people in pain, even when they don’t deserve it.”
But only humble people can do that. You see, only when we are aware of our own sin are we willing to reach out in kindness to fellow sinners. And only when we are aware of our own need can we truly sympathize with those in need. Literally, we feel their pain (or their pathos) with them.
In Luke 7, Jesus was eating dinner with a local preacher, when the local prostitute showed up and poured perfume on His feet along with her tears. Then because she had nothing else to use, she wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair.
The preacher was indignant. “How can Jesus allow this filthy, evil woman to do that to him,” he thought to himself.
So Jesus told him a story. “Two men owed money to a certain loan officer. One owed him $75,000 and the other about $7,500. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled both their debts.”
Then Jesus asked the preacher a question, “Now which of them will love him more?”
The preacher replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
And Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.” Then he turned toward the woman and said to the preacher, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, [you did nothing to welcome me.] You did not wash my feet [like most people do in desert climates], but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not greet me with a kiss [in typical Middle Eastern fashion], but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not refresh me with oil on my head [as is customary in the Middle East], but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:36-47)
Those who really don’t believe they need a lot of forgiveness have a very little capacity for love. But those who know they have been forgiven much have the capacity to love much. They love their Lord more and they have a greater compassion for those who struggle just like they. The self righteous are merciless and hard. The poor in spirit are merciful, full of forgiveness and compassion.
It’s the kind of forgiveness demonstrated by Lloyd LeBlanc. Lloyd was the father of David LeBlanc, a 17-year-old who was murdered by Patrick and Eddie Sonnier. When neighbors started harassing Ms. Sonnier for her sons' actions, Lloyd Leblanc came to her house with a basket of fruit. Lloyd told Ms. Sonnier that he was a parent too, and he understood that she wasn't responsible for the murder.