Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Clinton Chisholm | Burchell Taylor’s call to humility

Published:Saturday | January 28, 2017 | 1:00 AM

It is beyond controversy that the Rev Dr Burchell Taylor is one of the region's best preacher-teachers. In fact, I have said to clergy colleagues and got their concurrence that whenever you hear Dr Taylor preach from any text, you wonder if it is the same Bible you are using that he uses.

Unusually gifted by God is my summary of him as a minister of the Word.

Regrettably, I did not hear most of his sermon at the recently held National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, but I heard clips later in the day and was pleasantly struck by his focus on humility, especially in a gathering of top leaders in Church, State, business and elsewhere.

I say this because I suspect, and have seen evidence, that top leaders in whatever sphere tend to confuse their rank or occupational position with their personhood and so lack an understanding of the essence of humility and an appreciation of the need for humility in all interpersonal relationships.

A bishop, CEO, ambassador, MP or other top-ranking official is no greater in personhood than anybody else, but is just more accountable on the job than anyone else because he is saddled with more responsibility than all others.

As Dr Taylor urged in his final virtue call,

"Finally, we have an abiding commitment to develop and display thoughtful maturity in our ways and dealings. The key expression of this is the virtue of humility.

"This has to do with a proper appraisal of ourselves in the scheme of things so that we may operate meaningfully and effectively in contributing to the common good. The cooperative effort that it will take to develop a just and compassionate society will be severely hampered if we foster a setting which allows for some people to think too highly of themselves and we cause others to think too lowly of themselves.

 

A SOCIETY IN TROUBLE

 

"Signs of this are always indicators of a society in trouble. They feed the tendencies towards authoritarianism, oppression, exploitation, discrimination and exclusion. They breed feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness.

"We, too, often find this at work in our midst in so many ways and at so many places. We benefit or suffer as a result. On a whole, it sours life in our community and society, and it hinders meaningful, peaceful and truly fruitful living together. It, therefore, undermines our pursuit of the common good. We simply cannot afford this."

None of us can downplay the convicting force of this analysis of all of us generally. But I now highlight an acute point made in passing by Dr Taylor. He said, "We bear in mind that humility has never been a choice virtue of the world. The world scoffs at it, with its own lack of it. It very much prefers self-glorification, subtle or unsubtle. It promotes name recognition and judges by its own rating agencies and measures. It encourages advancing at the expense of others, rather than together in the interest of the common good."

This was and is so very true.

The working view I have had of humility is "seeing self as God sees and behaving accordingly". This is refusing to take too seriously the press reports from friends or the estimate of the self based on position, possessions or the like.

The lofty, by this kind of look, are lowered to size and the lowly are lifted up to size. At base, we are all persons created by God and in the image of God and, as such, possess inestimable worth and dignity and are, therefore, deserving of respect irrespective of how we are, what we do or where we serve in society.

I hope all, or at least most, of us will be led to examine how we think about ourselves and how we relate to others based on Dr Taylor's soul-searching sermon.

- The Rev Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and cchisholm81@gmail.com.