T. Pierce Brown

If someone had accused me of being blinded by arrogance, I would have been startled, amazed, chagrined, abashed, mortified, bewildered, astounded, hurt and bothered. For it seemed to me that in any contest for humility, I probably could have taken the medal away from Moses, who seemed to pretty well lead the field in his day (Numbers 12:3). I realized with Paul that although “I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4), I have, nevertheless, thought myself reasonably humble.

But since someone told me once that an honest confession is good for the soul (unless that is one of the wise sayings I made up), I believe the following confession may help another exceedingly humble persons reexamine themselves in the light of God’s Word.

With my thousands of students inAfricawho are in various stages of ignorance of God’s Word, when I receive a letter telling me of the terrible conditions there, I read it with concern. This preacher suggested they had problems of polygamy, idolatry, adultery, drunkenness and circumcision among women. When I read the last one, I thought, “He has bigger problems than even he is aware of!”

But I am the one who had a bigger problem than I thought. In my arrogance, I thought, “How ignorant can a person be? Anyone who has read the Bible, or knows anything about circumcision knows how it was done, but it has nothing to do with women.” I mentioned it to a few brethren whom I thought might know almost as much as I thought I knew. (Sometimes I find one like that). But I did not mention it to find out anything. I mentioned it because I thought it a humorous example, albeit a pitiful one, of the ignorance of those in pagan societies. I was not consciously or deliberately “making fun” of his presumed ignorance. But many of us who get hundreds of letters fromAfrica, or any “foreigner,” find some of their “quaint” expression humorous.

Though I do not feel guilty of ridiculing him, I am bothered by the fact that as long as I had my arrogant assumption that I knew a lot more than he did about it, I was not only able to give him no advice, I was not even able to learn anything about the subject myself.

Almost by accident, or by God’s grace, I discovered that my ignorance was greater than I knew. I was already humble enough to know that it might take me another week to learn everything important. But now I realized that it might take two or three if I did not develop a greater openness of mind. It is altogether probable that “circumcision among women” is a cultural phenomena, (and possibly cultish, with religious overtones) practiced primarily by witch doctors. It is probably a more barbaric and horrible practice than practicing abortion with a coat hanger.

Since “circum” means “around” and “cision” means “to cut,” I should have had enough thoughtfulness to realize that “cutting around” in certain areas of the vaginal tract could have as much meaning in some cultures as “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:29) might have to a student of God’s Word.

I still do not understand exactly how it is practiced, what leads up to it, and whether it is primarily a cultural or religious ceremony, but at least I have been humbled to the point of humiliation. It is my hope that this revelation and confession will help those of you who think you know something, as well as the two or three of us who do know something, to grow more humble without having to be humiliated in the process. You may not be able to reach the mountain peak of humility as others of us have (or is it the depth of the valley?), but as Browning put it, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.”

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