Have you ever caught yourself thinking it’s great that you aren’t like all those people who don’t know the Lord? Ever patted yourself on the back, glad you have a special truth most other people don’t know about? Or been proud that you’re one of the few God chose to make a Christian?
The truths God has revealed to us are precious. But God didn’t give them to us because we’re anything special or because we have some innate ability to live a holier life than other people. He’s not out to make us proud of our moral or spiritual superiority. In fact, pride is hateful to God (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5).
I’m sure most of us don’t go around with an attitude that intentionally says, “Look at me! I’m such a very good Christian and I’m better than other people.” But I also think that it’s easy for us to slip into a habit of acting as if we think something very similar. We set up an “us versus them” in our minds where we’re the ones with special knowledge and all the people who don’t believe what we do are in some way less than us. And that’s not a good place to start if we want to reach out to people in a godly way.
Those Who Think They’re Good Christians
There’s a fascinating discussion in Romans 2 that relates to this topic. Here, Paul shakes up some ideas that certain first-century Jewish believers had about their importance, experience, and position in the church.
Indeed you bear the name of a Jew, and rest on the law, and glory in God, and know his will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of babies, having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth. (Rom. 2:17-20, WEB)
Replace “you bear the name of a Jew” with “you are considered a faithful Christian” and Paul could be talking to any number of people in the church today.
You therefore who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach that a man shouldn’t steal, do you steal? You who say a man shouldn’t commit adultery. Do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who glory in the law, through your disobedience of the law do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written. (Rom. 2:21-24, WEB)
I’ve heard of prominent, respected leaders in modern churches committing murder, being caught in sexual misconduct, abusing church members, stealing from the tithe, and literally setting people on fire for practicing witchcraft. Even in less extreme cases, Christians as a whole often fail to balance truth and love. We fall into the ditch of being judgmental and arrogant towards those who don’t practice what we believe (truth without love), or we go off the other direction an adopt an “anything goes” mentality that ignores the word of God (love without truth). It’s no wonder unbelievers are not impressed by Christians if we’re either constantly condemning them or we aren’t practicing what our God teaches.
The Lord Isn’t Impressed By Shows Of Obedience
As Paul continues addressing these issues, he uses the question of circumcision as an example. Male circumcision was the outward sign of being part of the Old Covenant. It was a physical symbol of something God always intended to be spiritual (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4).
For circumcision indeed profits, if you are a doer of the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. If therefore the uncircumcised keep the ordinances of the law, won’t his uncircumcision be accounted as circumcision? Won’t the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfills the law, judge you, who with the letter and circumcision are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God. (Rom. 2:25-29, WEB)
We have to stop thinking of ourselves as better than others because we’re Christians who are doing pretty well at following God. The Lord is not impressed with outward show. He looks on the heart to see if we’re following Him in sincerity and truth, obeying Him fully from the heart. If our hearts aren’t right, then it doesn’t matter what church group we’re part of or how morally superior we seem.
I’m No Different From Them
I decided to write this post after reading a chapter called “Love Versus Truth” in the book Rethinking Sexuality by Dr. Juli Slattery. Here’s a quote from this passage:
“It’s easy to adopt and us-versus-them mind-set. We are on one side of the argument or battle, and ‘they’ are on the other side, ‘they’ being atheists, abortionists, alcoholics, convicts, pornographers, homosexuals, and gossips, among others. In truth, there is no distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ apart of Jesus Christ. We are broken and sinful, and we need grace. We are foolish, weak, and desperate. We are all loved by God and lost without salvation through Jesus Christ.” (p. 143)
God’s grace poured out on us should result in a life modeled after Him, not one of arrogance and moral superiority. We have nothing that we have not received as a free gift — a gift which God could also choose to give to anyone else He wants. We have no room for boasting about what makes us different (1 Cor. 4:7). We wouldn’t know anything at all about God apart form His spirit transforming our minds (1 Cor. 2:9-16).
Think of Yourself Less and of Christ More
We need to be careful not to fall into the “I have special knowledge” or “I’m better because I’m a Christian” trap.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, the same is known by him. (1 Cor. 8:1-3, WEB)
If anyone ever had the right to think He was better than others, it would have been Jesus Christ. He was God in the flesh, with more knowledge and holiness than anyone before or since. And yet He was meek and humble, calling Himself a servant. That’s how we ought to be as well.
“Biblical statements that tell us not to judge are not suggesting that we throw away God’s standard of right and wrong. The purpose of these passages is to remind us that we are in need of God’s grace as much as anyone. We are subject to the same standard of holiness and need to walk with great humility as we share God’s love with others.” (Rethinking Sexuality, p. 144)
Those who learn to balance truth and love follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who showed endless love and compassion while never compromising the truth of God’s word. As we model Christ’s example, all pride drops away. We become too focused on loving others and sharing the truth to be distracted by prideful thoughts of our own knowledge or personal holiness. Rather than being proud of our Christianity, we’re in awe of the God who welcomes us into His family. Instead of judging people for not having knowledge of God, we’re eager to share the gospel because we share God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
- If you’d like to get a copy of Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Julie Slattery, click here. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
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