sermon follow-up: pride

Why on earth would a preacher preach about such on Easter Sunday morning? Because it’s Christ’s death and resurrection that puts the lie to, and calls for the death of, all forms of human pride.

Pride is a problem for everyone, perhaps especially, Christians. If you think otherwise, ask a few folks who are yet to believe or who once believed, but quit. Pride is all around us. It’s one of the three things that make up the world’s way of thinking (1 John 2:16).

Human pride says: “I don’t need a Savior.”

To which God asks: “Do you not see my Son on the cross for you?”

Human pride says: “This life is all there is.”

God replies: “See my Son’s empty tomb.”

Human pride says: “I’m only worth as much as what others think I’m worth.”

And God responds: “I alone can determine the worth of life and I have considered you worth my Son’s death on the cross and the sharing of his resurrection life with you.”

Many, rather than understanding and taking in what God has to say to them about their worth, continue to try to live with the world’s definition of their value still in their head. But to do so is to risk driving off the road of humility into one of the two ditches of pride on either side.

The ditch of pride on the right comes from thinking, “I know better than God for I know my real worth: nothing.” However, if we see that ditch for what it is, we must be careful not to yank the wheel and over-correct our steering and so, wind up in the ditch on the other side, the ditch that comes from thinking, “Look what all I do for God.

To hold onto the world’s story as to our value (or lack thereof) and simultaneously try to be a Christian is to ultimately either have just enough religion to be miserable or to turn faith into something focused on us. In either case, pride will have its destructive way with you.

So hear the good news of the resurrection of Christ. He is risen! And that means its all about him, not you or me.

Praise God!

like sending my own heart

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to command you to do the right thing, I would rather appeal to you through love. I, Paul—an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus— appeal to you for my child Onesimus. I became his father in the faith during my time in prison. He was useless to you before, but now he is useful to both of us. I’m sending him back to you, which is like sending you my own heart. I considered keeping him with me so that he might serve me in your place during my time in prison because of the gospel. However, I didn’t want to do anything without your consent so that your act of kindness would occur willingly and not under pressure. Maybe this is the reason that Onesimus was separated from you for a while so that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave but more than a slave—that is, as a beloved brother. He is especially a beloved brother to me. How much more can he become a brother to you, personally and spiritually in the Lord!

So, if you really consider me a partner, welcome Onesimus as if you were welcoming me. If he has harmed you in any way or owes you money, charge it to my account. I, Paul, will pay it back to you (I’m writing this with my own hand). Of course, I won’t mention that you owe me your life.

Yes, brother, I want this favor from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. I’m writing to you, confident of your obedience and knowing that you will do more than what I ask. Also, one more thing—prepare a guest room for me. I hope that I will be released from prison to be with you because of your prayers. (Philemon 8-22 CEB)

Paul is not one given to empty expression. And so when Paul told Philemon that sending Onesimus to him was his “sending his own heart” (vs.12), we are told a great deal! Here is a former Jewish rabbi now turned long-time Christian evangelist speaking of a runaway, Gentile slave, still quite new in Christ, as “beloved” (vs.16) to him, something like “a child” to him, in fact (vs.10). The differences between these two would have been legion, yet in Christ, they had found fantastic kinship and oneness. No doubt each could see in the other some of the very long road traveled to get to where they were now in Christ.

Now most all of us have a small circle of people we consider our “very heart.” They are our true family, perhaps as close, or even closer, than our biological kin. But I have to wonder how many of those we are closest of all to in life are people with whom we share faith in Christ, and not only kinship in Christ, but are people who are very much unlike us.

Where Christ is truly at work in our lives, we will find him actively chipping tearing down the walls that would normally separate us from others. Over time, we find that “our heart network,” the product of Christ’s work, is composed, at least in part, of people we would never have chosen on our own with whom to be one. Yet, they are the ones who have become “very dear to us.” Indeed, we would sacrifice whatever was asked of us to benefit them, so close we have become to them. Differences such as heritage, race, economics, social standing, language even, melt away as we stand together in the presence of Christ.

That is the way Christ’s family, the church, is supposed to be. That’s the way the church of Christ is supposed to be in you and me. It is up to us to let it be.

God our Heavenly Father, bless us all, all who call on you in Christ’s name, with a fresh vision of what you would have us to be in terms of heart and life toward each other. Amen.