Saturday, February 06, 2010

Humility and Hope

Written by Conrade Yap   
Saturday, 06 February 2010
[Simultaneously published at my church website here]

The Irish poet, Oscar Wilde describes the human saint and sinner as follows: “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” In one sentence, he reminds us of two important aspects of being human: Humility and Hope. By grace, we can experience both.

A) Humility in Saints

Interestingly, those called saints, think they are the greatest sinners. The reputable third century saint, Augustine of Hippo, well-known for his Confessions, is a womanizer who fathered an illegitimate child! Yet, he goes on to become a Patron Saint of Western Christendom in the early centuries. Without proper recognition of his past sins, Augustine would not have lacked integrity in his leadership.

Humility for Augustine is via confession out of obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The title of the book, Confessions, speaks for itself. In that book, Augustine humbly confesses his sins before God, and becomes an open book to people all over the world. He openly lists his wrongdoings. What is amazing is that Augustine does it willingly, without external pressure. At that time, there is no CNN, no cable, no TV stations or paparazzi to expose his sexual misdeeds. There is no Internet or Youtube to reveal his faults. There is no one to pester Augustine into submission. Augustine did it through humble confession and simple obedience. It is only God who is able to prompt his heart into open confession.

I also used to steal from my parents’ cellar and to pocket food from their table either to satisfy the demands of gluttony or to have something to give to boys who, of course, loved playing a game as much as I, and who would sell me their playthings in return. Even in this game I was overcome by a vain desire to win and was often guilty of cheating.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book I.xix.30, Oxford Classics, 1992, p22)

In his confessions, he admits he is powerless on his own. Did Augustine become stuck in this state? Fortunately, no.

B) Hope for Sinners

If you are like me, you might be thinking, “I am no saint!” Let me say that Augustine starts off like all of us, as sinners. How each of us completes our journey on earth will depend on how we live. All of us live under God’s mercy and grace. Under this grace, we have to learn humility. Without Christ, we are nothing. Augustine’s words remain one of hope. This hope is anchored in God alone.

Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book I.i.1, Oxford Classics, 1992, p3)

Remember our past and cultivate humility. Look forward to the future to develop hope. In every saint is a sinner. In every sinner who is in Christ, there is hope. Glorious hope. It is this hope that motivates them to do good works, and persevere over and over again.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)


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