This last week proved exceptionally busy, as it seemed I had to be in about eight different places at once every day. With no time to do grocery shopping, I put things off until the last second. On Saturday, I finally hit Kroger for replacement sundries.
Standing in the coffee and tea aisle, I heard a commotion, looked left, and witnessed a red-faced mother yelling to her child, “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to smack you in the mouth!”
On hearing this, I looked over at my son and thought, Thank God I’m a better parent than….
Then it hit me.
It doesn’t take much for us to compare, does it? The senses take in data and the judgmental wheels start grinding. Too often, they grind up others Jesus said are my neighbors.
I see an out-of-control parent fighting an out-of-control child and I think of that parent in terms of “I’m better than you.” I talk with a baby Christian who doesn’t have his doctrine down right and “I’m better than you” rattles around in my head, bouncing off every slightly off statement that newbie pronounces. I consider all the things I own, then look to some poverty-stricken soul in Africa, and I start singing the “I’m better than you” song.
Only that tune grates on the ears. Maybe not mine, but the Lord’s.
It’s easy to call it pride, but it’s more than pride. Even someone who considers herself a loser can still find someone to be better than. The poverty-stricken guy in Africa looks at the poverty-stricken child who lost a leg to a landmine and thinks, Well, at least I’m better than he is.
Isn’t this “Better than you” mantra the source of many of our problems in our churches? Get to the root of any church split and “Better than you” grows like a fungus. I wonder if the Godblogosphere promotes a lot of this poisonous “Better than you” smack that gets talked up on this blog and that. All it does is ruin people in their souls, though.
The Bible says this:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…
When I considered that yelling mother in Kroger, did I have the mind of Christ when I trotted out the comparison? Not at all. Did I look to her interests in any way? Hardly. What I looked to was my own need to feel better about myself by judging another human being.
What is the mind of Christ in this regard? Humility—plain, unadulterated humility.
It pains me to say that I don’t know many truly humble people. Seems to me that the ones that overflow with this most godly of traits sport plenty of gray hair, as if being around long enough qualifies one to grasp humility. Perhaps it’s the fading of the flesh’s power that renders us more humble. All I know is that I could learn a few things from those senior saints.
What would a truly humble church look like? I would suppose that most persecuted churches know humility. Kind of hard to swagger with a boot heel on your neck. If that’s what it’s going to take to make for a humble Church in America, then perhaps we should be joining in prayer with our Chinese brothers who are praying that persecution comes to this country so that the Church here wakes up.
As for me, I would hope instead that our humility comes by another means, that the Spirit might change us from the inside. For all this talk of “Better than you” starts on the inside in the natural man, a straggler unwilling to budge save that Christ budges him for us.
This “Better Than You” talk kills us in the long run, makes us impervious to grace, blackening our souls. I suspect if we truly did esteem others better than ourselves, someone outside the Church might sit up and take notice.
I pray that’s sooner rather than later.