…the Christian world must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western ‘can do’ world.
The only problem is that it devolved into our modern private and personal ‘decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a ‘good work’ that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.
~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr
In the above paragraph Rohr has summed up the largest elephant in the room of Evangelical Christianity. It’s about time we had a long, hard look at ourselves. And yes, I do consider myself Evangelical, partly because that is how I came to faith, mostly because I believe this is something so wonderful how can I not live it and breathe it (and thus share it)? That’s what loving Jesus looks like: loving my neighbour, seeing Jesus in the people I meet even if they have active antipathy towards Him themselves and, of course, sharing the Good News.
Why are our churches so full of pride? Why do we find so many people within the body of Christ whose goal is to be ‘right’ or ‘the best’ or in power? Why are there so many who would exclude and look down on others for certain things, but they neither offer a hand in love nor cease their own wrongdoings? Why is pride so often overlooked? Why do we let this incredibly destructive sin course through the very veins of the Church? Why is this so rarely preached about? I can recall a single sermon on humility. That’s it. In decades.
Reading the following scripture this morning made me think of our church’s new pastor. One of his foremost qualities that I really appreciate is his humility. He’s ready and willing to be a ‘true disciple’. How very sad that this is so rare.
[Jesus said,] ‘The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers… I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Luke 18:9-14, NRSVA
Humility is not optional in the Kingdom.
‘The devil’s wiles are many. He would turn hell upside down a thousand times to make us think ourselves better than we are. He has good reason for it, for such fancies are most injurious. Sham virtues springing from this root are always accompanied by a vainglory never found in those of divine origin, which are free from pride.’
The Interior Castle
St. Teresa of Avila
Pride. It’s such a ubiquitous sin that we barely even notice it I wonder why? I’m sure pride makes God sad. Have you ever heard a sermon preached on pride? I certainly haven’t. Yet pride is a tenacious, deep-rooted sin that grows like a weed, so why is it largely ignored? Why are certain sins singled out over other sins? I don’t get it. I guess I don’t have to – God isn’t asking me to be anyone else, or to worry about why anyone else is the way they are (except, of course, my children). No, God’s just asking me to be me and you to be you. And that’s all (which is not to say we are to ignore other people – absolutely not! But we have to allow them room to be themselves, and we have to love, and to serve, without judging).
For me, the first lesson in humility has been a realisation that I am, frankly, rather useless. It is also the realisation that the whole of humanity is screwed up in one way or another. But the second lesson is amazing. The second lesson turns everything on its head (God does this, I’ve noticed). Far from living in a continual state of misery over my worthlessness, lesson number two is a life-changing realisation of my innate, God-given dignity. My recognition and comprehension of my unworthiness is what makes the knowledge of dignity so joyous, and so beautiful. When I acknowledge my God-given dignity I have no more need of pride. This is the working of grace. I don’t think I’m there yet, by any means, but… I’m on my way and the view’s good.
‘There was once a man who went out to sow. In his sowing some of the seeds fell by the road-side and the birds swooped down and gobbled them up. Some fell on stony patches where they had very little soil. They sprang up quickly in the shallow soil, but when the sun came up they were scorched by the heat and withered away because they had no roots. Some seeds fell among thorn-bushes and the thorns grew up and choked the life out of them. But some fell on good soil and produced a crop—some a hundred times what had been sown, some sixty and some thirty times. The man who has ears should use them!’
Matthew 13:3-8 (JB Phillips)