Last week we began to explore the folly of pride. Obadiah identified pride as one of the character flaws that provoked the wrath of God against the Nation of Edom. We cautioned that pride disposes a person to self deception and presumptuousness, and that pride often leads to fool hardy conduct. I am compelled by my heart for my colleague ministers to linger further on the pride issue. Listen again to Obadiah at verse three, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks[a]and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?” As recently as last week I listened to the pain of a young man in ministerial training as he described happenings at his local assembly, which is his mind are clear abuses of power. It brought into sharp focus yet again the reality that church leaders are vested with power. We are therefore at considerable risk for allowing this “dwelling among the clefts of the rocks”, “upon the heights” to get the better of us. In Obadiah we get a clear picture of how God deals with such headiness. At verse four: “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. This brings me to the third and arguably most significant caution against pride of heart. The Bible is very clear that PRIDE PUTS US ON THE BATTLE FIELD WITH GOD HIMSELF AS OUR OPPONENT.
What Obadiah described to Edom as her fate is what we find described in the New Testament by James and Peter. Both declare emphatically “God resists the proud” (James 4:6 and 1 Pe. 5: 5). The Greek word used conjures up images up battle formation, God taking a battle stance against the proud. Now that, my friends, makes me shudder. I shudder when I grapple with the fact that it was pride of heart that led to Lucifer’s rebellion. I am particularly mindful of the subjugation of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel and Herod in Acts who exalted themselves and learnt be the hard way that it is a frightful thing to evoke the mocking laughter of Yahweh. Nebuchadnezzar became demented and roamed the field like a wild animal, Herod fell to the ground, became lunch for the worms and died.
We have already hinted that we are all disposed to pride of heart, that it follows hard on our heels as we trod. I cannot stress enough how careful we ought to guard ourselves then against haughtiness. I wonder whether there are some groups of persons who are perhaps more at risk, or perhaps I should say who should be more watchful against pride. With the greatest of respect I’d like to suggest that pastoral leaders and gospel artistes are on that list. By virtue of what pastors do and by virtue of the he crowds that artistes have almost eating out of their hands it is very easy to allow that kind of adoration to get to our head. Note that in the case of Herod of Acts 12, mentioned just now it was his oration that lead to his demise. After his speech the people shouted that it was a god who had just spoken. The adulation was soaked in by Herod instead of deflected. He fell down, became lunch for the worms and died. You and I will benefit greatly if we take a pride check this week. Prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit and at least one discerning individual to assess you on the continuum of pride. As you begin to know yourself in this area you should then put in place practical measures to keep your pride in check.
My passion for the sanctity of the Pastoral vocation also moves me to ask us to consider the call to servant leadership that Jesus issued. I have been grappling with the question of why it seems to be so unappealing in the Caribbean. Of course at the most basic level the analysis begins with the sin nature that bedevils us and the fact that pride is almost synonymous with Satan. When we add to that the “meism” that is being preached by the secularists, manifested in the consumerism, the materialism and the hedonism which have infiltrated the church we come to realize that the odds are stacked heavily against Caribbean pastors incarnating servant leadership. I’d like to suggest also that we may have a learnt attitude of revulsion to the word servant because of our not so distant history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I have personally heard church members and church leaders alike take umbrage to Paul’s use of the phrase slave of Christ or servant of Christ. Unfortunately such a view can only be perpetuated in an environment of poor Biblical interpretation, and scholarship, something which is all too common in our space.
A further consideration needs to be put on the table: The role that the absence of fathers and father figures play in making the kind of men who become church leaders. Many within our ranks carry the emotional wounds of unstable family life in their formative years. The power that we now hold becomes the power that we never had. That power is therefore clutched tightly and protected from anything that resembles a giving away of our power. This attitude is just the opposite of servant leadership, it divests, it integrates, it is inclusive.
Before we over analyze though let us examine our own heart and stewardship of our ministries o see how close we are to the Jesus model of descending into greatness. It is my prayer that we will commit ourselves to habitually embrace the basin and the towel instead of the throne and the crown as we pursue this call to the ministry. I leave us this week with the words of my South African mentor Cassie Casterns, “The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken. This simply means that the hard, unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God’s will, admits that it is wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus.”