Are you an arrogant person? Even if you don’t think you are, when you interact with someone you feel to be of a lesser status than yourself–whether financially, academically, socially or in any other way–do you find a way to let them know their place, or have you given up your earthly position to put on Christ?
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
We human beings are funny creatures. Each of us, regardless of where we fit on the socioeconomic scale, know where we stand. Whenever we interact with another human being, within a very short time we intuitively appraise each other and are acutely aware of who came out on top. This list just scratches the surface of the ways we initially judge each other:
*The way we dress–the brand, whether it is is clean and ironed, whether it the right size, whether it is decent in our estimation, and whether it enhances our appearance. Also, whether it is appropriate to the circumstances, and whether it is something the richer/cooler/smarter people wear or is clearly outdated or used.
*The way we smell–whether we are wearing cheap perfume or cologne or a more expensive brand. Whether we have bad breath because of something we’ve recently eaten or that is particular to certain cultures (such as garlic), because of faulty grooming habits, or even because of things beyond our control. Also, the way our clothes smell. Whether they have a recently purchased smell, a Downy smell, or something less attractive. We don’t always realize that even if they aren’t homeless, there are still many people for whom a visit to a washing machine isn’t a trip to the next room but a difficult trudge with a cart through slush to a laundromat, and costs money they do not have or cannot spare at the moment.
*The way we speak–this is a big one. Not just our dialect, which can betray which part of the country we come from, but also whether we speak proper English. Whether we have an accent, which reveals whether we are native-born Americans. Whether we know the right buzzwords for our profession or position, and what slang words we use or fail to use. Furthermore, we tend to judge others by their level of vocabulary, and by whether they can hold their own in a conversation or seem flustered and stumble verbally.
*The way we carry ourselves–whether we can maintain eye contact, whether we assume a confident, superior demeanor or seem lacking in confidence or even subservient. Also, any evidence of gay mannerisms.
*How old (or young) we are–being too old can work against you, as can being too young. In certain cases, not the being the “right” age–whatever that may be–is a downside.
Once we’ve spent a little time getting to know each other, however, the ways we determine a person’s worth increase even more:
*Because of their educational level (or lack of it);
*Because of the school they attend(ed );
*Because of their profession/position/job (or lack of it);
*Because of their spouse’s profession/position/job (or lack of it);
*Because of their salary;
*Because of where they live;
*Because of how big/how new their house is;
*Because of where they live;
*Because of who they are in the community;
*Because of their professional accomplishments (books published, positions held, etc);
*Because of their advanced degrees (or lack of them);
*Because of who their parents/children/other relatives are (or aren’t).
Appraising a person mentally and determining whether they are your superior or you theirs is very human, yet how we respond once we arrive at this determination is a reflection of whether we are truly letting Christ shine through us, or whether our identity is still firmly entrenched in ourselves.
Jesus is–those of us who know Him can agree–the most superior person to ever walk this earth, yet He is also our best example of setting aside our own identity:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God [He could have rightly claimed the honor and privilege accorded God], but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him…” (Philippians 2:5-9)
Jesus put aside the honor and privilege rightly due Him as Immanuel [God with us], and made Himself “of no reputation.” Surely he expects no less of us?
Saint Paul, although only a human being, is another example of someone who, in earthly terms, was worthy of great respect because of his lineage, accomplishments, and status in this world:
“Though I also might have confidence in the flesh [earthly status–something to brag about]. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
Yet what did he do about his status?
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish…” (Philippians 3:7-8)
He understood that the things that are important to people count for absolutely nothing before God. Yet what were his goals–what does count in God’s eyes?
“That I may gain Christ and
[that I may] be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
that I may know Him and
[that I may know ]the power of His resurrection, and
[that I may know] the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)
That’s quite a list! Yet the take-away from all of this is remarkably simple.
The take-away is that if we have put on Christ–if we are His people, His emissaries in this world to those still hopelessly lost in sin–we must deny ourselves (“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”–Luke 9:23-24) We must “…put off, concerning…[our] former conduct, the old man [our human desire to trumpet our status to others, among other sinful tendencies] which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” (Ephesians 4:22)
We may honestly think, “I don’t do that–I try to reflect Christ.” But do you “like” the comments of Facebook friends you deem less than you as often as the comments of those you’re trying to impress? Do you even accept friend requests from those beneath you? Do you reply when they comment on your thread? Whom do you spend time with? Whom do you invite to your home, to your parties? Granted, you might rightly answer, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'” (I Corinthians 15:33) True, but to dig even further, do you associate with people primarily for fun and camaraderie, or to disciple them?
No, we do not want to learn sinful habits from the ungodly, but neither can we reflect Christ if we never associate with those who don’t know Him. Furthermore, the uncomfortable truth is that we are often arrogant to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, something even the early church struggled with:
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 2:1-7)
Yet God commands us, “…Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16 NIV)
Ultimately, “…He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…” (II Corinthians 5:15-16)
From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. From now on, we look at people through God’s eyes. We no longer use our interactions to cater to them or to rub in their inferiority. Rather, when we look at another human being, we see a person whom Christ loves immensely. We may recognize whether they belong to Him or not, and adjust our interactions appropriately–not to reject and exclude them, but to do what is necessary to introduce them to their Creator and Savior God. And when we interact with others we recognize that His standards are very different from ours and are kind and respectful to someone who may actually be more worthy than I am.
So, are you arrogant? Do you always find a way to let the person you are interacting with know that you are better than they? Or are you kind?
How infinitely hard it really is to allow You to be Lord in my life! Create in me a sensitivity to how I interact with others. Let me be clothed with You, that the only thing that rubs off on others is Your love and greater intimacy with You. Amen.