1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I felt a shock of pain reverberate through my body. The woman’s cutting remark wounded me, deeply. Instinctively, my pride bristled and the desire to wound back reared its ugly head. Mercifully, I heard His voice:
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord [. . .] Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:18-19, 21)
Had this happened a few years earlier, I would have embraced vengeance without a second thought. I’m quick-witted and hot-blooded; I know how to spin up a razor-sharp defense.
But things had changed.
I had encountered Jesus and was growing to be more like Him.
Through that process, I learned I no longer had the right to use my wit as a weapon. Nor could I nurse my wounded pride. I surrendered those the day I chose Christ as my savior. And so did you.
Pride has no place in the gospel.
Surrendering our pride is essential to experiencing intimacy with Christ.
The Good Samaritan: a study in surrendered pride
In one of my favorite Bible stories, Jesus speaks with a scribe, an expert in the Law. (Luke 10:25-37) At first, the scribe seems to simply lack understanding. He wants to know how one obtains eternal life. But Jesus quickly uncovers the root of his question. The scribe understands what the Law requires, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)
The scribe does not lack understanding, but the ability to live it out.
In an effort to justify himself, the scribe asks, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
In response, Jesus tells him a story…
A man was robbed while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten, stripped, and left to die. Luckily, it’s a busy road and a Jewish priest comes along. When he sees the man, however, he crosses the road and keeps walking. Later, a Levite (Jewish holy man) walks by, but he too ignores the wounded man.
Finally, a Samaritan (an ethnic enemy of the Jews) encounters the man, and is moved with compassion. He tends to the man’s wounds, places him on his own donkey, and brings him to shelter. The next day, he leaves money with the innkeeper, asking him to care for the wounded man and promising to cover any cost. (Luke 10:30-35)
Jesus’ point is clear, our neighbor is anyone God places in our path. The scribe, however, would have understood a deeper truth, caring for this man cost the Samaritan his pride. You see, Samaritans were despised. Chances are, the beaten man would have spit on the Samaritan had he had been well. Only compassion could compel the Samaritan to show such mercy.
While compassion compels us to draw near another’s suffering, pride erects barriers and interjects mockery. Jesus’ lesson? We cannot love our neighbor while holding onto pride.
Washing Feet: an act of surrendered pride
Jesus lived what He taught. Instances of His surrendered pride is evidenced throughout the gospel accounts, but my favorite is the night He washed His disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-20)
The setting is the final meal Jesus and His disciples would share. His betrayer sits at the table. Jesus knows once they leave, His death will be set into motion. This is the last time He’ll be with the men He has loved and led for the last three years. I can only imagine the emotions He experienced.
Here, John shares some of my favorite verses in the Bible:
“Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing [. . .] and began to wash his disciples’ feet [.]” (John 13:3-5)
Jesus was assured of His identity and authority. Yet in those precious moments, He didn’t choose to display his power. He chose, instead, to demonstrate His love.
Even in the face of this divine humility, human pride bristles. When Peter realizes what Jesus was doing, he balks at the insanity of it. His pride will not allow Jesus to do something so lowly.
Jesus gently rebukes him saying, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8) Jesus knows our pride distances us from true healing only He can provide. Jesus calls us to surrender our pride because He wants to offer us healing and intimacy instead.
The promise in practice
Both of these stories, rich with meaning and subtext, offer us one simple truth.
As long as we cling to our pride, we will be unable to experience intimacy with Christ or offer it to others.
Surrendering our pride allows us to respond to this hard and hurting world just as Christ did.
Surrender teaches us to look to God for our identity and defense.
Surrender leads us to care for our enemies and wash the feet of our traitors.
Surrendering our pride may feel like a loss of protection, but in reality, it is the opportunity to experience the fullness of Christ.
And in the fullness of Christ,
we want for nothing.