Talking Back to Pride

On Dec. 23, 1783, Commander-in-Chief General George Washington resigned his commission to public service in the colonial army, having led the colonies to victory over the most powerful military force on earth.  

This is groundbreaking and revolutionary in a way that we, who have not lived in a world defined by monarchy, cannot understand without using our imaginations.  People in America and Europe assumed that having won the war, Washington would do what military victors had done for centuries -- assume primary power; even as king.  His resignation must be celebrated as a victory of humility over pride as he retained focus on the purpose of the revolution as well as his limitations as only one human being.  

Evagrius faced temptations he called Pride and Vainglory, which I combined into the one heading of Pride.  It took many forms, including:
  • My thoughts are important and must be shared with others
  • People should care what I do
He was also tempted to:
  • compare himself to others
  • to gossip, and envy
And all this, 17 centuries before social media.
He also had thoughts like:
  • I don’t deserve to suffer
  • I don’t need to listen to advice
  • I don’t need people to pray for me

Pride is tricky because oftentimes we don't even recognize it as "bad."  It comes in the form of self-respect, for example.  There is such a thing as "healthy pride," as human beings are special in God's eyes (see Psalm 8, Rev. 5). But God's enemy will warp that into an insistence that we become our own gods.  Pride tempts us to displace God and enthrone the Self.

So our BATTLE PLAN is to talk back to Pride with scripture and what Paul called the breastplate of righteousness.  Scripture today is Matthew 20:20-28.

Talk back to pride by NEEDING COMMUNITY.  James and John (and their mother) forgot that Jesus had called them into a integrated community, not to be strong on their own, without their brothers and sisters in Christ.  C.S. Lewis wrote “Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship...among drunken people…But pride always means enmity — it IS enmity" (Mere Christianity).
Take an inventory of people in your community who fulfill your needs.  Reach out and let those people know.  Pride will run and hide.

Talk back to pride by HONORING COMMUNITY.  The other ten felt dishonored at James and John's request.  How could they not?  In the world's economy, when we lift ourselves up, others must be put down.  But in God's economy, when we lift others up, we are lifted up as well, by God.  It's a win-win.  One of the most powerful ways to honor another person is by listening to them.  Listening is about paying full attention to that person, offering your valuable time to them because they are worth it.  When we truly spend time dignifying others, pride runs and hides.

Talk back to pride by SERVING COMMUNITY.  Jesus is clear: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  It might seem like an abstract question, "What does righteousness look like?"  But the entire Bible illustrates God's righteousness from start to finish -- it is sacrificial service.  Jesus was given all power over everything on earth, and yet he chose to use that power to wash his followers' feet (John 13).  The most powerful way to serve your community, before any actions (but not instead of action) is in PRAYER.  Begin by praying with your loved ones.  Then extend to your wider community.  And then the challenge is to obey Jesus and love our enemies -- pray for those who oppose you, who annoy you, who offend you.  Do you dare?

Pride is a powerful force, which tempts us in many ways.  
Easily confused with our God-given DIGNITY, Pride inflates that dignity and fools us into thinking we don’t need God at all. The end of that story is destruction.
But we have a BATTLE PLAN:
To talk back to Pride by NEEDING each other
By HONORING each other
By SERVING each other
Just as Jesus served us on the cross, and the Holy Spirit advocates for us every day.  
Amen.

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