|I visited with one of my former youth this weekend. He was happy to show off his new car. After some time working and saving, he bought himself a pretty nice ride. He told me what he added to the car, and made sure to give it a few revs in the parking lot.|
You should’ve seen his face when I told him how proud I was of him. He beamed. We both looked at his car, but my attention was on a young man who had learned something about the value of work. As happy as he was about the car, my impression was he felt good being acknowledged by someone he knows loves him.
The pride I had for him was the good kind of pride. It was an affection. I’m sure you’ve had those kinds of moments. A child’s report card, a family accomplishment or even something church related. Life has lots of those times and they are great.
But there is dangerous pride.
What’s the difference?
One is joyful and connects us with the grace of God and to the image of God within each other. That’s what made it so great to see my former youth learning and growing into a young adult. The other pride ties us to ourselves, and not in a good way.
What’s most dangerous about that pride is that we don’t always recognize what it’s doing. How it’s shaping our view of ourselves and other people. What’s it’s doing to our witness and our ministry. Much of the individualism that embodies our way of life today finds its roots in pride. Pride is selfish. Pride does not honor God.
So, what’s the remedy?
The opposite of pride is humility. That’s a good place to begin. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you,” is the instruction of James 4:10. Let God do the exalting. The Lord doesn’t need your help.
We can also turn to holiness. Humility and holiness relate to one another. Where one is the other is. And the church needs both.
I’ve been ruminating over a tweet for a few days. Someone online asked, “What if the revival we’ve prayed for is actually the exposing and removal of abusive, spiritually dead leaders?”
If our church leaders aren’t spiritually alive, what do you think they are? I’ll agree with you if you say spiritually dead. But I’ll also say they’re prideful. Same difference.
They aren’t leading and connecting to the Spirit’s work today. Instead, they’re hanging on to the pride of what they’ve accomplished, what they used to be and who they think they are.
The church needs to be careful with pride. It seeps into our souls without us realizing it. It impacts our ministry and witness in the process. What you and I need to do is cling to holiness. Seek God with all our hearts and take a back seat to the power of God.
If we do, we’ll be able to appreciate the good, joyful proud moments more. And we’ll be able to rightly see our need of God’s grace and mercy. We’ll be spiritually alive.
Most New Testament letters are situational. That is, there is some situation that informs the content and purpose of each letter. Nothing we read is random.
The letter to the Romans, for example, sought to unite Roman Christians. There was a strong point of contention among them that Paul addressed. It’s thought that Paul spoke to tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. I’ve learned recently of another idea. That Paul was writing, by and large, to a Gentile audience. Some Gentile Christians thought it was necessary to take on Jewish identity. Others did not.
Those ideas shape how we read some of Paul’s admonitions in the letter.
As I reread Romans, I can’t help but see how most of what Paul spoke of thousands of years ago could help us in our modern context. We may be arguing and disagreeing about different topics today, but we are still arguing and disagreeing with each other.
Paul frames the tensions facing the Romans through worship. There were some who had a constrictive idea of what was faithful. This had to do with eating unclean food. Paul called these people weak. Now, he wasn’t insulting them. Although you can imagine how someone may take a word like that. But in chapter 14 he says, “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
Is that anything we need today?
Part of Paul’s prescription for doing so involved a level of humility a lot of us aren’t willing to share. If you consider yourself one of the strong ones, then it’s up to you to “put up with the failings of the weak.” Let that sink in for a moment or two. Most times, putting up with someone carries a negative connotation.
In light of pursuing what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding, what does it mean to put up with someone?
Here’s how the Message translation says it: Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient. Strength is for service, not status.
Let me repeat that last line: Strength is for service, not status.
Paul’s recipe, then, for God’s kind of peace is humble service toward one another. It’s not winning arguments. It’s not shaming others into belief. It’s certainly not holding yourself in high regard.
He goes on to remind us of Christ’s willingness to take on the insults of the world for our salvation. We are weak. Christ is strong. What did Christ do for us? That’s what we’re called to do for one another.