Sometimes comparing ourselves to others doesn't turn out quite how we want it to...
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The last will be first. The first will be last. The meek shall inherit the earth. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek. The Gospel news is about turning things upside down and changing the world for the better. It's about recognizing that things aren't the way they should be and trusting that Jesus came to make all things new. What it isn't about it is tooting our own horn of righteousness and presuming that we are better, holier, than anyone else.
I've been talking with my CPE supervisor recently about my habit of comparison. However, rather than assuming that I am better than others, I presume the opposite. I diminish myself and fail to acknowledge my own goodness. Instead of vilifying the other, I pedestal and idolize them, thinking them to be something to which I should aspire. Yes, I have my faults and shortcomings. Sure I make mistakes. I have my vices - anger, lust, dishonesty. But I also have my strengths: compassion, kindness, a desire for justice, a willingness to acknowledge my own privilege.
In the realm of faith today, there is a lot of "us vs. them" happening. Progressives and fundamentalists. Democrats and republicans. Liberals and conservatives. We look at the other and fail to see God in them. We forget to love them. We find it hard to believe that Jesus could come to live for them and love them too. But He did. And he calls us to do the same. He calls us to the same table to eat, the same cup to drink, the same river in which to be washed of our own brokenness.
This Lent, as I take on writing for the third year, I hope you will journey with me as I explore the idea of seeing our true selves and claiming our place in the Jesus story. It isn't about us and them. It's about us...
**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**
photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker (via Flickr)