Get over yourself!

"God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble." James 4. 6


As bishop of Cambrai and tutor to the Duke of Burgundy, Francois de la Mothe Fenelon was well acquainted with the machinations of the French court around the turn of the 17th/ 18th centuries. He wrote:


"So long as we are centred upon ourselves, we shall be vulnerable to the contradiction, wickedness, and injustice of others. Our temper will bring us into collision with other tempers; our passions will clash with those of our neighbours. Our desires have so many tender places exposed to the arrows of the jealous around us. And our pride, which is incompatible with that of our neighbours', rises like the waves of a stormy sea; everything to arouse, attack and to rebuff us. So we become exposed on all sides, because of passionate sensitivity and jealous pride. Expect, then, no peace within us, when we are the mercy of a mass culture of greedy insatiable longings, for the empty, unfulfilled and touchy "me"..."


He could have been writing concerning just about any community at any time! Add a proud or selfish or ambitious person to another and you have double-trouble. Throw in others and you have a recipe for chaos and, eventually, war. On account of its destructive potential, pride is often singled out in Scripture as the worst of sins. Now we know that sin is sin and the Lord himself does not rank it in order. Yet there is something insidious about pride because it comes so naturally, while being so dangerous.


Jesus shows us a better way: the way of humility. If pride lies at the root of our desperate need for recognition, control, significance, its antidote - humility - reverses the effect. If anyone had reason and means to be proud, it was Jesus. Yet in his letter to the Philippian church, Paul describes Jesus' journey of self-humbling to stunning effect: tracing it all the way to the cross and then culminating in his elevation to glory. So the glory of Jesus is not to be found in his power or virtue but in his eagerness to lay all that aside and walk among people as a servant.


So we have a choice: give in to the pride and selfishness which come so naturally and add to human suffering and the destruction of the natural world; or follow Jesus down the road of self-abnegation, prioritising the needs of others, speaking truth to power and having nothing to do with gossip and scandal.

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