This article appeared in the September 30 edition of the Chanute Tribune.
Are American Christians typically humble or arrogant towards those with whom they disagree? Regrettably, there have been times when the latter has been true. This is something I have observed in a number of Christians’ lives, particularly my own! All too often I have been self-righteous in my judgments towards others. I have harbored spiritual pride. But this simply shouldn’t be the case for the Christian. The good news of what Jesus has done should make Christians the most humble people on the planet.
Obviously, spiritual pride isn’t winsome. If we pride ourselves on things like our biblical knowledge, faithfulness in church attendance, the consistency of our prayer life, our office as elders or deacons or Sunday school teachers or small group leaders or board chairpersons or whatever, people will take notice. Even if we’re the kind of people who pride ourselves on the fact that we’re not like those super-spiritual Christians and we know that God loves us even if we don’t teach Sunday school or serve on a board or go to church every single Sunday, the same thing holds true. If we pride ourselves on the way we live as Christians, we will come across as arrogant.
But when we hold fast to the gospel, it changes us. The gospel causes Christian churches to become communities characterized by patience and humility towards those with whom they disagree. It’s unfortunate that we have sometimes had a reputation for being self-righteous towards homosexuals, adherents of other religions, and others. It’s even more unfortunate that there have been times when this reputation has been well-deserved.
Sadly, I know that I myself have sometimes mocked or ridiculed certain people who perhaps held to an unbiblical or non-Christian perspective on a particular issue. Consider atheism as an example. Obviously, I don’t agree with atheism. Personally, I find the arguments many atheists use to support their viewpoint uncompelling. And so my response could be, and, I’m ashamed to admit, has been at times, to get with my Christian friends and poke fun and laugh at how stupid the atheists are, as though the reason I’m a Christian is because I am so smart! But nothing could be further from the truth. The gospel teaches me that the reason I’m a Christian isn’t because I’m so smart or good or well-behaved. On the contrary, the reason I’m a Christians is because I’m so stupid, bad, and ill-behaved that the only way I could be forgiven and restored to a relationship with God was for the Son of God to be crucified for me.
The word “gospel” means “good news.” This is the central message of Christianity. The good news of the gospel is that although I deserved God’s judgment and was separated from the eternal joy of a relationship with God because of my sin, Jesus lived a sinless life and died to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would ultimately put their faith in him. If I, therefore, put my faith in him, my sins are forgiven and his sinless life is credited to my account so that when God looks at me, he is no longer angry. I have God’s unwavering and affection and blessing.
This message undermines pride. The gospel says that the only reason I’m a Christian is because of Christ’s work in my life. My relationship with God is based upon God’s grace alone. My perspective as a Christian, the way I live as a Christian, the biblical principles I embrace, the faith I have, my Christian love—all of these things were purchased for me through what Christ has done on my behalf. These blessings come to me not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but because of what Christ has done for me.
Praise be to God for the certainty that the spiritual pride against which we wrestle is ultimately doomed in the face of the gospel.