The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing




September 2009
EXALTING OURSELVES: CLAPPING OUR OWN BACK


Shantanu Dutta

Our place in Jesus Christ is the only place that matters.

The UP Chief Minister, Mayawati, is busy erecting statues. Statues of herself no less, along with those of her mentor, (late) Kanshi Ram. There has been a public interest litigation filed against this practice in the supreme court, but the lady goes on.

This reminds me of the story of Herod the Great, a king of Biblical times. He was a tyrant and hugely unpopular. He had no expectation that even one person would be there who would mourn his death. So, as he neared death, he had several prominent subjects of his kingdom imprisoned, with instructions that, at his death, they all ought to be executed en masse. That way, he reasoned, at least some mourning would take place and some tears would be shed at his death, even though the tears would not be for his death.

Erecting statues of yourself and seeking sainthood through the backdoor is a bit like the instance of Herod… But, history repeats itself, so this must be it-even though she claims that she is in this game only because the BSP founder, (late) Kanshi Ram, had willed that alongside his statue, that of his protégé (Ms. Mayawati) should also be built. And then, you have to get the statue right. A statue of Mayawati has been removed from a prominent location by the authorities barely 45 days after she unveiled it, as she wanted a bigger statue of herself in its place. Apparently, Mayawati was not happy with the quality of the sculpture; she had also expressed her displeasure over the fact that it was smaller than the statue of her political mentor Kanshi Ram. So, the statue got smashed! In Mayawati, we have a wannabe icon and an anarchist iconoclast; but though you can raise the height of a statue with ease, it takes a lot more work to raise the height of your stature. And that leader or icon of stature is what people are looking for and haven't found yet!

Self-Image

This is really a question of our self-image, or how we look at ourselves. Paul wrote, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Rom. 12:3). He was talking about how we understand our spiritual gifts in the life of the body of Christ; I think we can take his words in a more general sense. As Christians, we learn to look at ourselves realistically, "with sober judgment," as Paul says, and this might keep us from having the feelings I had at that high school dance.

It is not that we demean ourselves, or put ourselves down. Instead, we simply understand that we are not as big as we thought we were. The world does not revolve around us, after all. As Christians, we are called to a high purpose in life: to glorify God, enjoy His presence and serve Him. When God's glory is our central concern, the little slights that come our way do not have the same power to humiliate. Our high purpose does not make us any higher than anyone else, for it is only Jesus that we are to lift up, that others might be drawn to Him.

If we are really happy with ourselves, I doubt that we are going to make a mad dash for the place of honour. We do not need that external stamp of approval, we think will be conferred, by being seated in the patron's corner. We'll be content to take a lower place, even the lowest, knowing that our place in Jesus Christ is the only place that matters. We do not have to promote ourselves, because real promotion comes only from the Lord. Self-promotion always backfires.

Lack Of Worth

So, when we see another person climbing over us to "get to the top," or making themselves into a "big shot," or scrambling for the place of honour and attention in our group, our family, our office or some other environment, we need to take a look at ourselves and we will understand what is happening. That person, we think, has such a high opinion of himself, is really filled with self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. Those motives may be well covered up, and hidden even from that person. Few people do have a really good understanding of themselves, after all. But the underlying cause of their behaviour, reaching for the top of the heap, is that they are unsure of their own worth and are looking for something that will reinforce that good feeling they would like to have about themselves.

Understanding this could make us a lot more tolerant of people, even people who try to walk all over us. When you are tempted to "cut them down to size," remember that they are hurting. The hurt that causes their behaviour may be greater than your hurt as a result of their behaviour.

Letting our hurts control us is a formula for failure. If we look for the "place of honour," for recognition and approval from other people, to bolster our self-doubt and lack of worth and cover our hurts, we are riding for a fall. Jesus warned us not to try it, but instead to "take the lowest place" at the banquet. Then, he said, "when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

We take the "lowest place" at the banquet, the place of service and not the place of honour, because we already know our place. Our place is secure in Jesus, "our only Mediator and Advocate." We do not have anything to prove about ourselves, because He pleads for us. We are to have the mind of Christ, says Paul.

Indeed, when we "take the lowest place," we are only doing what Jesus did: not claiming to be equal to God and striving for glory and honour, but depending on God to bring us to that place of esteem where we understand who we are in Christ-people made in God's own image as responsible, capable and beloved creatures who do not need to prove who they are to themselves or anyone else.




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