Humility vs Narcissism
Last Sunday, Trinity Sunday, we took the opportunity to examine just what we mean when we say, “Jesus is Lord.” This morning we have the opportunity to examine how why it is important to communicate that meaning to others. My chosen text is our epistle, in which St. Paul tells his Corinthian congregation, “…we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves for Jesus’ sake.”
I suppose the jumping off point is that very first verse: “We do not proclaim ourselves.” I like the National Car Rental ads, but I don’t like what they represent. You know, the ones where the self-centered narcissist can choose “any car in the aisle" because he likes control and likes to be seen in control. This is the guy Mac Davis sang about in his song, “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”
O Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror.
‘cuz I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
O Lord it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doing the best that I can.
National Car Rental wants, you, too to think of yourself as above others and wants others to see you that way too. It would be good for you to keep those ads in your mind because if you ever want to know how Christ wants you to be, just think of those ads and do and be the exact opposite!!!
Paul says, “Think of yourselves as slaves.” The entire thrust of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, his parables, his healing, feeding, and his teachings is to put others first and to put yourself last. Is there an antonym to the word narcissism?
This is our proclamation: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord. This is foundational to our faith. It is how we begin our confession. Jesus is Lord. Now, if Jesus is Lord then no one else or no one thing is Lord. We proclaim “one Lord, one faith, one birth.” One Lord. Not many Lords. One Lord. No one else. Caesar wasn’t Lord. No rulers since Caesar have been Lord. We owe our allegiance first to Jesus. Therefore, our values must be Jesus’ values. The values we carry into the workplace and into the public square are Jesus values. The values we carry into the voting booths are Jesus values.
This is why it is so very important – so very rock-bottom crucial – for us to know what we mean when we say Jesus is Lord and to know how that affects the way we speak, the way we view the world, and the way we treat our neighbor.
It is also important because it helps us identify those things which happen in our world which are not of Jesus or of the values of Jesus. It helps us become the conscience of the society in which we live. This is the church’s role. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but the conscience of the state.” As the conscience of the state, then, it becomes our calling to speak up when politics undermines our theology – when our nation or our leaders take us down a path on which Jesus has clearly placed a sign saying, “Danger. Don’t walk here! Turn back and go the other way!”
What is a Jesus value? Let’s try this one on for size. Jesus said this: “You know that the rulers of (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” We were reminded last weekend, Memorial Weekend, that those who fought and died for this country died for democratic values rooted in Jesus values – that the authority of government was instituted by God for the sake of justice and peace and equality and that our elected officials are called to public service. To serve. Not to be served. So, when our public officials begin to resemble the man in the National Car rental ads our consciences are offended, as they should be. We are called to be the conscience of a nation. The antonym to narcissism? Humility.
What are Jesus’ values? The belief that each of us is created in the image of God and, as children of God, we are all created equal. The Declaration of Independence says this, but God said it first. Therefore, when Roseanne says that a highly respected woman of color is the offspring of the Muslim brotherhood and the planet of the apes we can immediately
recognize that as overt bigoted racism. But what we don’t often recognize are more subtle forms of racism such as low expectations or unconscious profiling—things that you and I probably do without knowing it.
What are Jesus’ values? St. Paul told us clearly in Galatians 3:28 when he said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” It’s not just that we should be more welcoming of those coming across our borders, it’s that the entire concept of borders is not a Jesus value. I’ve said before that, when I drive up Rt. 15 to Gettysburg I see a dotted line on my GPS as I drive into Pennsylvania. But when I look out my window I don’t see a dotted line.
God didn’t put dotted lines all over the earth and decree that people who speak English stay on one side while people who speak Spanish stay on the other side. We invented the dotted lines. And now we are proposing to turn the dotted lines into cement and barbed wire walls. This is not a Jesus value!
Text: 2nd Corinthians 4:5-12