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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pride and Humility

I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contemptWe have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.  Psalm 123

Contempt, arrogance and pride are strange words for a Christmas blog. This detestable triumvirate of fleshly traits has nothing to recommend it. There are few things more soul quenching than the arrogance of someone who touts his own excellence. Who has not been beaten down by the pride of another person who lords it over you using natural strengths and ill-gained power? Who among us has not cried out to God for rescue from the attitudes and words of others who keep us under the heel of their own superiority?

Contempt, arrogance and pride are human traits we use often but seldom want to claim. We may shove them into the master closet of our personality, so they are hidden from view, but we keep them readily available for our use. We are injured by the pride of other people, as well as by our own. We are wounded by the contempt we endure and by the contempt we inflict.

The Christ of Christmas stands out in distinct contrast to the proud and arrogant people who populate our world. He, who as the Son of God, possessed infinite superiority chose to be born, to live and to die humbly. He, who tamed the winds and waves, allowed himself to be battered by human hands. It is through him that God offers us mercy. It is by his Spirit that dwells in us that we offer mercy to others.

Today a co-worker reminded me that I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ He challenged me to think of my gifts and abilities in terms of ‘how God is powerful through me.’ What a reversal of the way an unspiritual world assesses my qualities—or lack thereof.  What an antidote to pride. Arrogance and one-upmanship lose their competitive edge when my qualities are used to display God’s character and not my own. The barbs of the proud lose their power when my worth is aligned with God’s and not dependent on my own success.

To be a manservant or a handmaiden of God means we have placed our identity in our relationship with him. We are eager to do his work and sensitive to his every wish.  We call out for mercy, only to discover that our protection from the contempt of the proud and arrogant has come as a result of our humble submission to his will.