Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick

Episode 281 - Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards, "Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character"

October 06, 2023 Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards Season 12 Episode 281
Episode 281 - Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards, "Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character"
Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick
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Restoring the Soul with Michael John Cusick
Episode 281 - Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards, "Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character"
Oct 06, 2023 Season 12 Episode 281
Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards

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"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but having an accurate self-perception. It's about being grounded in who God made you to be." - Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards

Welcome back to the Restoring Soul podcast! In this episode, host Michael John Cusick invites Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards to dive deep into the topic of humility. They discuss the misunderstandings surrounding humility and how it is often misapplied in the lives of followers of Jesus. 

Dr. Edwards shares his insights as a theologian and pastor, shedding light on the true essence of humility. They explore biblical examples, such as Moses and Jesus, and examine the importance of recognizing and submitting to God's perspective of ourselves. Join us as we uncover the truths about humility and its transforming power.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:
Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character


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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but having an accurate self-perception. It's about being grounded in who God made you to be." - Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards

Welcome back to the Restoring Soul podcast! In this episode, host Michael John Cusick invites Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards to dive deep into the topic of humility. They discuss the misunderstandings surrounding humility and how it is often misapplied in the lives of followers of Jesus. 

Dr. Edwards shares his insights as a theologian and pastor, shedding light on the true essence of humility. They explore biblical examples, such as Moses and Jesus, and examine the importance of recognizing and submitting to God's perspective of ourselves. Join us as we uncover the truths about humility and its transforming power.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:
Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character


ENGAGE THE RESTORING THE SOUL PODCAST:
- Follow us on YouTube
- Tweet us at @michaeljcusick and @PodcastRTS
- Like us on Facebook
- Follow us on Instagram & Twitter
- Follow Michael on Twitter
- Email us at info@restoringthesoul.com

Thanks for listening!

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

When I intend those things, I don't feel like my positions I have to win them. i My position is I need to be true to who God made me. But I will speak that truth in love. I mean, sometimes that's, that is a firm word. I mean, it's Jesus who says, Look, Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. I mean, they had no problem denouncing What's wrong, and still be called humble and, and, and gentle. So I'm I'm of the mindset that humility and gentleness does not mean I refrain from speaking, forthrightly and truthfully, but it also means I extend a certain respect to my conversation partner, that I might not if I was just intent on winning.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Well, Dr. Dennis Edwards, I want to welcome you back to the restoring soul podcast.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yeah, it really is nice to be with you. Again. I've appreciated our past interactions.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, me too. And in our last interaction on the podcast, we actually talked about your book about humility, and it's coming out, and it's coming out this fall with InterVarsity. Press.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

That's right. IVP academic is publishing the book. And yeah, and when we talked last time, I think I was just kind of in the midst of working on it. And now it's done.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Well, congratulations on giving birth to another one, your previous book might from the margins continues to touch me and challenge me deeply. Humility is of importance to me, in part because of my life story. There's been a lot of meat being humbled. And I've tried to make it a spiritual value to learn to humble myself, although I don't do very well with that most of the time, it seems. But it seems to me that humility is really misunderstood and misapplied for followers of Jesus. So let's, let's start there. What are the misunderstandings around this really important topic,

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

I appreciate that, in fact, I was going to call the book, humility, misunderstood, or something like that. I think there's a, there's a certain fear underneath, when we think of humility, that a fear that I'll be diminished, I'll be stepped on, I'll be taken advantage of. So we have to somehow sell humility as a virtue that says, Well, really to be successful. And you can be humble. In fact, one of the books that I that I reference in mind, a writer says that it's sort of the pathway toward, towards success that humility is, and then gives examples from the military and business and sports, the kind of the trinity of, of examples that we use for people in ministry. So I think a misconception is that humility is, is such an a basement, that I have to kind of ignore who I am really at the core, and there's a fear that we'll be taken advantage of. So we have to sell it in some ways as as a pathway towards success.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

And so I'm just going to throw a couple of the common definitions that I've heard out, and then I want you to just kind of filter it as a theologian and as a pastor, one of the common ones is humility is thinking less of yourself and filter that?

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Well, I certainly don't agree with that. And that's another one of those popular ideas, you know, thinking less, I'm not sure what that means. Really, I think it's having what I would call a proper perspective of oneself. You know, hummus is the root of the word humility, and hummus kind of means the ground, right? So I think of, of humility is being grounded, it's having an accurate self perception. So it's not thinking too highly of yourself, which is what something the New Testament says, right? Don't think too highly of yourself. But at the same time, it's not a basing oneself either and diminishing, it's having an accurate perception of who God made us.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

So now I'll just tweak the words. One definition is, as I just said, thinking, less of yourself. And then what about thinking of yourself less a popular pastor has said that, and that has never sat right with me.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yeah, it doesn't sit well with me either. I think there's nothing wrong with thinking about ourselves and, and how we fit into what God is doing in the world and doing in our lives. In fact, I don't think of humility in those terms of, of sort of that introspection about how I'm coming off in other people's eyes, or, or if I'm have my mind dwelling on something about myself to, you know, in the in that sense, I think of it in a relational sense, in terms of my relationship with God.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

So unpack that, because that's really the heart of your book, right? It is, and

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

I think, I mean, one way we could talk about humility is maybe looking at it from a sociological or even a psychological lens. And many people have done that, but I've tried to look at what I think screw teachers are saying so let's take an example of Moses. Right? So we've got Moses, and that little offhand comment in numbers, that he is the humblest person on the face of the earth or the meekest in some translations, and if you look at what's happening around with his life, at least in that, in that episode in numbers, and perhaps a few other areas around, you'll see that what God says in that episode is that Moses, we speak face to face, or literally in Hebrew, mouth to mouth, that there's this sense that Moses can be identified as humble because he has this as the humblest person, because he has this unique relationship with God. So I'm arguing that humility starts with my, my, my yielding or submission to God, before I worry about how other people are looking at me. So that's, that's what I think is the core of what humility is, it's my recognition of who I am before God.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, so it's, it's the unadorned who I am, it's the it's not the false self, it's the true self, if I'm understanding my actual self,

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

my actual self, that's a good way to say it. I think that's true. We, there was a book years ago that you may know of it was called glittering images by Susan Howe, which it's a novel, but it's a novel about a clergy person. And, and I know that phrase glittering image, we sometimes create those things. It's like, it isn't an adorned perception of ourselves, we make ourselves look really good. But if we could sort of strip that down and say, God, this is who I am, this is how you made me. And I recognize that, and I submit to to you, God, that I think is is where humility starts.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

And so you talked about Moses, of course, Jesus declares himself humble in Matthew 11. Most people know that passage. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrase that in the message where he says, I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you come to me, and we're live freely and lightly. But what he says in that passage, at least in the King James is low, Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble. And if if we're to be Christ, like, we're not just called to be humble, I've always thought but we're actually somehow if we're to be Christ, like and he proclaimed himself that what would you say, as a theologian and pastor, for us to proclaim ourselves that way not to hold up a sign, like the John 316 sign at a baseball game and say, I'm the most humble person in the world. But it almost feels laughable to go, Yeah, I was humbled in that moment, or I fundamentally can see myself as God sees me. And that's what humility is,

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

that's actually I really do appreciate that I actually hadn't thought about it in terms of how I would define myself or say it out loud. But I would see no problem with the I treat that passage actually in, in some detail in the book, because if we think from a New Testament formation standpoint, Pauline letters predate the Gospels. So there's a scholar, she's written a pretty heavy book called Paul on humility. Her name is Eva Marie Becker, a German scholar has been translated in English. And she will even go so far as to say Paul invented humility, because he takes this word tap enough for us in a in Greek, which, which literally can mean low, low thinking, and, and she talks about how how he presents this as a virtue when his contemporaries did not write. So Jesus uses the same kind of language, Matthew uses the same kind of language to describe Jesus or puts those words in Jesus mouth, of course, as Jesus is saying about himself. So we see these kinds of values put out there Paul will call people to be humble, he will, he will say this, and then we see it echoed in how Jesus is defining himself. So I think you're right on target. What I hadn't thought about is how I could say that, I guess my question really would be, why would I need to say it? And I suspect there might be moments when I'm challenged, like probably Jesus was to to say, Well, look, I am humble person, and I am carrying myself in such a such a way before God. So I don't think there's any problem with it. I just imagine what kind of scenarios would I need to have to declare it? But

MICHAEL CUSICK:

yeah, yeah, like, Hey, I have the trophy and humility. I won. I'm the magna cum laude, a female or something like that.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yeah, that sounds like an oxymoron right there. But okay.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah. And the only reason I bring that up is because in the kind of counseling we do, helping people when they start to realize that humility is this kind of trusting God that as he sees us that that's the person that's loved. Yeah, that humility can be a kind of currency. I don't mean a currency to, to manipulate but a currency like we see two times in the New Testament in James and in First Peter, that if we humble ourselves that he gives us a gift that there's grace, yes. And that one of the ways that I tried to posture my life through a lot of the 12 step work that I've done in that kind of thing is, Hey, God, I've got no game. I'm powerless, as opposed to Yes, I'm gonna have my devotions today. And, you know, hit a home run, getting something out of the word, say some prayers, listen to them, Christian worship music, and, and I've got this all figured out.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

I really liked that. And when you talk about currency, I see see, there's this perception in some places that I have to see myself as this really insignificant worm that is just so wretched, that, that that's what humility is. And I think that's not fair to the way the scriptures talk about us being made in the image of God being fearfully, wonderfully made so many things is there's some inherent worth that we have as human beings. So I don't think we have to see ourselves in that low way. But the power dynamic that you just mentioned, if I can recognize that I'm power less without God, that is the more submissive kind of place, and that becomes the currency. But I liked that you say that, but I don't want currency to mean, this is how I get ahead in life. Because I think that's the that's the problem that I'm having is that if I see it merely as a strategy for advancement, then then it becomes manipulative. Well, I'll and this is the way some Romans thought of, of the concept of we sometimes get translated meekness, they sorted, I'll be magnanimous I'll be, I'll do this big kind act for people because that gives me some social currency, and allows me to be seen with honor and status in the world. This is not the way I think the New Testament talks about its God opposes the proud the reference that you just gave, which actually travels throughout the Bible and into the Apostolic fathers. God opposes the proud but gives grace or favor to the humble. So therefore, humble us, yourselves who will say for Peter says that particularly. So this idea that God lifts us up, it's not a strategy for my own advancement. It's a way of God saying, Look, I got you, you can, you can be submissive, and you can not have to be the, the overpowering one in the room, you can be yourself genuine yourself, I will take care of you. And in fact, I'm going to resist those who are so proud and arrogant, that they advance their own agendas, and I'll take care of you and give you favor. I think that's a beautiful kind of currency, if you to take your terms.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah. And what always happens in our conversations is you the way you think, triggers neurons in my brain, and then I'm thinking that what you said, takes me to Isaiah 55. And in Chapters one through three, there's this really interesting statement where the prophet says, I think it says hoe in the in the games, King James and I actually looked this up for a Jewish friend recently, and it was low. But it basically says, You who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you have no money, buy and eat the richest a fair wine and bread and milk. And there it is, this idea that to get the good stuff, you actually have to acknowledge that you don't have anything that you can't buy in that store. So the condition is if you're going to use the currency, of acknowledging your thirst, and the fact that you can't get the satisfaction of your thirst, that it's the it's the poverty, if you will, that that gives the good gift, the favor. And it's just interesting that you start to see this everywhere.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yeah, I'm with you. In fact, Michael, I think from our last conversations that we that was sort of the thesis of my from the margins is that this power is coming with two people or is present and people who are power less in society's eyes. And in many ways, that weakness or that powerlessness or that apparent, you know, powerlessness and weakness is what stimulates the work of the Spirit in many cases. So one of the questions we might have is, wait a second, are you asking lowly people to go even lower? Are you asking people have been on the margins to, to even diminish themselves even more? And my answer is, no, that's not the way this works. But if we're going to understand humility, those are the folks we look at because we look at the way society has treated folks who are on the margins and see that kind of resilience and say, Ah, if I want to learn the way of humility, that's who I'm looking at, so I think, yeah, I mean, I'm with you on that, that not acknowledgement of our powerlessness in in the sight of God or relative weakness and that uh, Mmm, I do think that's part of what humility entails.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

That's such an important distinction to say that it's never about taking people that are already oppressed and powerless and making them go lower. But that there's actually a kind of invisible power, that as we look through history in the church, in particular, we see movements of the oppressed in the powerless as your first is your last book said might from the margins, that that's where revolution can happen, Kingdom kinds of revolution, a man, it's almost like your book on humility, and might from the margins is, you know, their their bookends, if you will. Yeah, in

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

some ways I was thinking about that I was, I was working on it. Because I really do think that my friend Lars has pushed me to think about humility. And maybe maybe partly because while I was trying in my from the margins to celebrate and acknowledge the power that is present in those who appear powerless, I also wanted to at the same time, challenge those who who are in relative positions of power, and think that, that they are better, or that somehow they are deserving of these roles or something, and also to push folks in that relative position of power to recognize that if they really are going to be Christ, like I'm talking to Christians, predominantly, if they really want to be the way of Christ, then take on the way, Jesus positioned himself, just like you said earlier in the Matthew 11 passage, that you're going to be gentle of heart and humble or lowly as the King James says. So if that's my model, then that changes the way I see, or at least I want to change the way I see myself in the world.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

To the point I like to think about, like to project this, this important, but but basic spiritual concept of humility, what would happen in the national debt crisis and the debt ceiling, if the Republicans and Democrats sat down and said, our first job here is to be humble? What would happen? And it sounds, of course, irrational, but if Vladimir Putin and President Zelensky sat down and said, we are going to be humble, it would it would change the world. Oh, so this is not just some esoteric idea that if we go live in a monastery for no time, that will become humble.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Thank you so much for saying that. And, and I'm, and I always start with Christian community, but you've just given examples that kind of push out to how we could be even looking at the way the world gets transformed. But I even see Christian community as polarized, at least in the States. And so part of me says, what would happen if when I enter into this dialogue, or into this room, or into this space, with Christians who, who are angry about something, or frustrated or in a disagreement, and say that my first order of business is to think about myself as a humble person in the way of Jesus? Philippians? Two, Matthew 11, these kinds of passages and think, how would that change the conversation? Because right now, I honestly think many of us come at conversations like that. And it's winner take all like, I have to win, I have to win. And I've talked to friends about this, like, where does that competition come from? And I'm not saying that these things are unimportant. I'm just saying, in my own way of being, when I enter in those things, I don't feel like my positions, I have to win them. i My position is I need to be true to who God made me. But I will speak that truth in love. I mean, sometimes that's, that is a firm word. I mean, it's Jesus who says, Look, Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. I mean, you had no problem denouncing What's wrong, and still be called humble and, and, and gentle. So I'm, I'm of the mindset that humility and gentleness does not mean I refrain from speaking, forthrightly and truthfully, but it also means I extend a certain respect to my to my conversation partner, that I might not if I was just intent on winning.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I can't help but think of Dr. King who we've had. We've had some conversation around him in the past, but where he had a fierce opposition to the injustice, and the oppression and the racism and the constitutional laws that were literally still in place, that were racist, and unfair, and inhumane. And in that fierceness, he was incredibly humbled to the point of nonviolent resistance.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Amen, amen. Of this, there's a fierceness to that kind of love, right? I mean, that's what he writes about and preached about, and I think humility does that. It's a it's a very tenacious way of, of showing love. And it works in concert. I mean, some of these passages of scripture that we look at, like in Colossians, that when were the kinds of virtue list that that's there. Humility is part of that, right? There's a humility, there's a gentleness there's a love. There's all these things work together. But I'm arguing that humility sort Have unlocks the door, if you will, for some of these virtues because we can be stubborn about things and not experienced these other virtues, if we, if we don't recognize our position before God, that we open ourselves up to receive to them become those peacemakers with others, which is what I think humility allows us to do.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Dennis, one of the things I've most appreciated about our conversations is you're a scholar and an academic, with a PhD trained at some of the best schools and universities, but you also are a pastor, and you've been a pastor through your whole adult career in a number of different congregations. So from a pastoral perspective, let's get practical. How can we cultivate humility? We can't just go out and say, you know, I'm gonna let people step in front of me at McDonald's or something like that, although that may, that may be part of it. But how do we become humble? And how can we cultivate this daily?

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Well, thank you. I do try to say in the book, I mean, I tried to give a lot of different illustrations and reimagine ourselves or our churches or, or communities in different situations. But the upshot of it all is that I am trying to ask myself along the way, how I can be this peacemaking, reconciling presence that depends on God in these in whatever situation I'm in. So rather than think of it as just an episode, I tried to cultivate a way of being that says, How can I be that I've been in some tense meetings, even on the last year, I have a new position in my in my work, and I, and I found myself stopping, taking some deep breaths, becoming mindful and saying, Well, how can I be this reconciling presence here in there? To me that's, that's what a practical way that humility starts rather than reacting, you know, and being hasty in that. I'm stopping to say, Lord, how can I be that voice here or that presence here? Maybe it's not a voice? Maybe it means I'm listening here. So I think it's that those moment by moment kind of cultivations of, how am I representing the Lord? I don't want to be corny and just say, What would Jesus do? That's not what I mean, it's, it's recognizing who I am in particular spaces. So the reason why it's hard to just mention one way of cultivating it sort of it but it isn't, it's a general paying attention. And maybe mindfulness is the word of paying attention to where I met, who I met, and how I can best represent the Lord in these places.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I love how you just made a distinction there about certain places, because if I think of myself, there's places where it's easy to be humble, to differ. You know, there's that passage in Philippians. Two, I think it's three and four, where it says, look to others interests before your exam. And that's really hard to do, but there's certain spaces I'm in. And it might be a professional space, it might be at the grocery store, if I'm really in a rush, you know, and people are over for dinner. And we live pretty close to a grocery store. So I can drive or run over there and get the whipped cream for the top of the desert. And because I'm in a rush, I dark to the checkout counter and got to make sure I get there before somebody else. So it's in some different spaces where it feels to me like something's at stake, my well being my interest, whatever the outcome is. And I think that for our listeners, I want you to chime in on this. Yeah, that it feels like where we struggle for humility the most is where something's at stake for our own well being.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yes. Oh, my goodness. So well said. I was thinking that way earlier in our conversation when I said fear because I do think it's that that notion that something is at stake for our own well being I was thinking that as a fear so so I have to somehow protect myself. So if I'm thinking of others interests before my own, that makes me possibly getting hurt, right? I mean, it sets me up for something. So that's why I think we come back to the currency you mentioned. I think that's why we have to come back to God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble that if I'm really truly trusting in God, and I'm not saying this is the easy thing, but then I'm trying to honestly believe that God will show favor on me. That's the kind of posture I hoped for in my own life.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Yeah, I love that the not pushing for my own way or as you said earlier, the winning Can you also comment on that word oppose. God opposes the proud if people could watch us on the screen, I'm gonna put my glasses down on the end of my nose, that when we hear that phrase, God opposes the proud like he's mad at us. And I've I've really seen it as it's almost like God saying, I can't work with proud I can't I can't mold anything with that, because it's like hard clay.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Yeah, I like the way you think you have a good way with pictures and metaphors. Because I mean, it just says straight out and the Greek god is anti. I mean, anti. I mean, it's like, and I've just, it's scary to think what does it mean forgot to be anti, but I think you filled it out well, that anti means I can't I can't work with you. I mean, you're in opposition to me. And I and we're not in sync right here. So not being in sync with God, there's there's no fruitful kind of outcome there. So I'm with you on that, that the ideas, God is excited and eager to work with those now I didn't write a book about pride per se, but I did interact with with people who who did write books on Pride and, and as the old King James has Vainglory or empty glory is the way Paul will have it also, in that Philippians passage, the idea of wanting people to perceive you as better or getting your own way. And that is, is not the way of God. So you're right, there's, there's a sense that I'm yielding something which takes me back to my original point that I'm yielding my own way. And I then I get favor from God.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

I love how you just brought up the idea of pride and humility and how have you got to think about those side by side. So your next book needs to be how to be proud. And it can sell in airports, you know, with little, little little asterix in them, because it seems like the more offensive a title is, the more likely it is to be in one of the airport bookstores. And that's what it's all about. Right is selling a lot of books.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

For some it's I might well, I appreciate that. But I I am yeah, I mean, I don't know how much books will sell. But I honestly do believe it was it was something that got put on my heart. And the nice thing was when IVP folks came in approached me particular and well, there were several people that we were in sync on this that they said this is something we think you, your voice would be important on. And it was something I've been thinking about for many, many years. But you'll see that as people get the book though, notice I'd spend a little bit at the beginning in the intro, sharing a little bit of my own journey and how these these notions was shaped in me.

MICHAEL CUSICK:

Brother, I just want to say I love your heart. I love your mind. It's always wonderful, talking to you. So Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards, blessings and thanks for your time today.

Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards:

Thank you so much was my pleasure.

Brian Beatty:

So thank you for listening to another episode of restoring the soul. We want you to know that restoring the soul is so much more than a podcast. What we're all about is helping couples and individuals get unstuck. You know how some people go to counseling or marriage therapy for months or even years and never really get anywhere. Our intensive programs help clients get unstuck in as little as two weeks. To learn more visit restoring the soul.com That's restoring the sole.com