Today marked the beginning of me reading through the gospels with another blogger friend. At first, I was really excited. I don’t really have a church that I specifically call home right now and personal Bible study has always been a struggle for me. So having someone to encourage me as I start a new study was something I really needed. However, today, reading through the first few chapters of Matthew proved a little harder than I thought it would be. It showed me something about myself that can seem like a good thing, but can also turn into a really, really bad thing.
The good/bad thing: I like to find things that no one else has ever discovered when it comes to the Bible. I like to pretend that no one else on earth has ever read Matthew 4:11 and thought “Hmm, I wonder what the word ‘minister’ actually means, and what the angels were really talking about with Jesus. I bet no one else has thought of this, let me look up that word. Oh hey, no other Christian has ever even thought of the other definitions of ‘minister’ and discovered that telling others about Christ is not the only way to spread His love.” I like to think that God is specifically revealing something to me that He’s never revealed to anyone else. That I’m somehow special because I got up this morning (okay, fine, this afternoon), made coffee, and sat down, free from distractions (alright, you caught me, the TV is on in the other room), and read God’s holy word, like NO OTHER PERSON HAS EVER DONE BEFORE.
But, in case you didn’t catch my drift, that is definitely not true. And I think it is a problem most Christians face today, including myself. We think we are God’s gift to all the unbelievers out there and that only we have the answer, that God Himself placed His ageless wisdom upon us specifically to carry out His perfect will. Which is technically correct, but not in the ‘holier than thou’ way that we seem to act out.
Just last week I ran into this problem. A friend was in town and she had expressed to me before arriving that she was having trouble ministering to a new believer. The new believer had a lot of questions that my friend wasn’t sure how to answer. I did my best to tell my friend that if she didn’t know, tell the new believer that she would study and find out for her and get back to her. That was the last we’d spoken on the subject. Until I’d spent the night with my friend, the new believer, and another friend. The night was going how normal sleepover’s with teenage girls go (makeovers, pizza, soda, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Project Runway, etc) until the new believer asked a question about homosexuality. Then everything got really serious, which I was perfectly fine with.
In high school, my favorite classes consisted of many debates about things like homosexuality, the God of the Old Testament verses the God of the New Testament (spoiler alert: they are the same, but that’s another post. Read “Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan!), and things that most Christians aren’t really comfortable conversing. But I love it. I love it because even though I really hate when people play the devil’s advocate, I understand that if I can’t even defend my faith to someone pretending like an unbeliever, how can I defend it to someone who actually is an unbeliever? How can I show others the love of Christ if I don’t even understand it myself? So I forced myself not to get angry when someone would ask, “If God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, how can He allow evil to exist?” Instead I indulged the question and looked for an answer. After all, it is a valid question. And the more I asked and tried to answer questions like that, the more I dove deeper into who God is, and the more I fell in love. Once I experienced that sensation of falling in love all over again, I loved talking about God and asking questions, and discovering who God is. Even if the conclusion I came to was “I don’t know.” It was just exciting talking about Him.
So that night, as we all did our best to explain Christianity to the girl with many questions (good and valid questions), I was doing really well. I wasn’t as good as my friend at spouting off scripture (Seriously, that was cool. I’m just not there yet, I need to get better at memorizing scripture), but I was getting really good at asking the new believer questions, at understanding all of the stuff we were telling her from her perspective, at spouting off theories from theologians, arguments that have been developed to prove God’s existence. Not going to lie, I was impressed with myself, but I started to think everyone else should be too. I started to think I was the only one with all the answers. Especially when I would notice flaws in someone else’s arguments for God. I saw myself playing the devil’s advocate, but only when it suited me. I pretended like I was the teacher, using the Socratic method to lead my students (I mean friends) to the path of righteousness. I put myself upon a pedestal, encouraging others to join me but secretly hoping they’d never reach my level.
While I may have technically been right, there was a brief moment when I was in it for the wrong reasons. I enjoyed being right more than actually helping someone else in their walk with God. I allowed my pride to cloud my heart and instead of wanting the new believer to understand and thank God, I wanted her to understand and thank me.
And that’s self-seeking and wrong. As important as it is to minister with love and truth, it is also important to minister with a pure heart.
Reading Matthew chapters 1-5 today, I realized that I shouldn’t search for truth just so that I can be more right than anyone else. I need to search for truth for the sake of simply finding it, of being on the right path, of working out my own salvation. So, as I read through the gospels over the next few weeks, I’m going to work on my pride. Yes, there are about a billion other things wrong with me (c’mon, I’m human), but right now I’m focusing on pride.
Truth isn’t an advantage over those who don’t have it; it’s contentment, stability, and reliability in our own lives. If we treat it as a weapon against those who need it the most, we miss what is true entirely. My goal: to live for the truth, instead of making the truth live for me.