Does This Year Make Me Look Self-Righteous?

Like so many of you, my heart hurts.

I’m weary from grief. I’m worn out with change. My heart weeps for everyone facing prolonged separations from dear ones or who buried family without the comfort of a funeral. And for all who celebrated major life passages with modified or delayed celebrations. The thought of a second wave makes me numb.

Like you, I’m tired of the fighting. I’m so sick of people hating and hurting one another because of skin color. Sick at heart about corruption in our police forces that smears and detracts from the work of honest, faithful law enforcement officers. Sick at the rise of extremist groups on both ends of political extremes which are really just different manifestations of hate. Sick of being pre-judged by my skin color, geography, age, or the outlines of my faith.

And like many of you, I’m facing the voting booth on my knees. Throwing my entire faith on our God and choosing according to the policies and philosophy I believe promote the best future for the next generation. I’ve stopped listening to rhetoric and promises, and have, instead, focused my attention on actions, accomplishments, and records. Except for the God part, I could be wrong, but I will make a choice and vote.

Above all else, I sorrow and lament for the family of God and the public displays of condemnation and self-righteousness we’re demonstrating for (and ultimately against) one another. But, even here, I hang my head with my own confessions of wrongdoing.

To be fair, this year has demonstrated that the church hasn’t cornered the market on self-righteousness. It appears to have become a hallmark of our culture – even for those who deny God on every level.

This is how Wikipedia defines self-righteousness:

Self-righteousness, also called sanctimoniousnesssententiousness and holier-than-thou attitudes is a feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like all of America to me right now. And in case you think I’m pointing the finger, I can assure you that when I face the mirror of scripture, I see the reflection of a self-righteous person more often than I’d like you to ever know. (Though, I’m savvy enough at my age not to let it slip out in public very often, I fight a constant battle with my inner-Pharisee.)

I believe it’s possible to walk through this world, to rightly see all that’s wrong, to speak God’s truth, and to represent Him well without resorting to sanctimony or self-righteous condemnations.

 I believe this because I’ve seen it lived out in the person of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever worked to create something or bring order to a place – only to have it destroyed or undone by others? (If you have children, you must answer yes.) Do you remember the hurt and anger you felt?

Imagine Jesus, through whom everything that has been made was made.

Imagine Jesus, through whom we were created as the crown of creation designed to worship, work, and be in relationship with our Father.

Imagine Jesus, living among the mess we’ve made of all that was created through Him, seeing humanity addicted to sin and self, unwilling to emerge from this addiction to realize the full potential of our own glorious creation. And reacting, not with rage or condemnation, but by laying down His life for us.

We don’t have to imagine it because we can read it in the gospels. He walked among us, embodying righteousness but demonstrating humility, sacrificial love, unrelenting mercy, spoken truth, and the hope of redemption.

Paul described it this way in his letter to the Philippians 2:3-8 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Yes, public representatives of Jesus who make public declarations should be confronted publicly if their words or actions aren’t representative of Jesus (such as Paul did when confronting Peter.)

Yes, hypocrisy must be called out as Jesus did with the Pharisees, lawyers, and scribes of Israel.

But Jesus did all things from a foundation of humility, deep study of the Word of God, and hours of daily prayer alone with His Father. Before you post your next condemning status update or tweet, weigh your spiritual foundation against His daily spiritual practices.

The world has never needed to see Christians walking in humility more than this generation does now.

If we care at all about those whom Jesus loves. If we care at all about representing what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. If we care at all about the legacy that we leave the next generation.

If we care at all about representing Jesus in the fullness of His person, we will repent of our arrogance and self-righteousness. We will guard our hearts with the breastplate of His righteousness.

And our public discourse will be marked by loving truth delivered humbly, mercifully, unapologetically, and in service to others above ourselves.

Does this year make me look self-righteous? Let us be careful that as Christians we shape our times and not the other way around.

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2 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Sherry Carter says:

    Lori, I read this with tears in my eyes. My heart tells me you’re describing me. My pride wants to believe I’m above all that.

    I voted in the early voting period after I spent what seems like weeks on my knees (not literally because I can’t get up anymore). I am still not at complete peace, but I know I voted by what I sensed from God.

    I find my security in this: God already knows the outcome, and He will raise up people to fight the enemy’s efforts to corrupt our political system and our society. We need to stay on our knees.

  2. Bruce says:

    Hi Lori-

    Your point is valid, and well taken.

    It seems that self righteousness is innate within the human creature, apart from the “new man” we have become in Christ.

    Lord, help us to be honest and fair in our assessments of societal issues.

    Christ has provided us the ultimate example, and His Word leads us directly toward humility and wisdom in these cases. Let us be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

    There is a war going on to be sure, and we must FIGHT in this war, or lose. Yet the weapons of our warfare are not effective if they are fleshly and proud.

    Thank you for the reminder Lori.