In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul deals with a church that is in turmoil for various reasons. The letter reveals the character of these people and a major reason why they have so many problems - pride!
This is why in I Cor. 13, the beautiful passage on love, one of the first things he mentions about love's character is that "…love is never boastful or proud." Of all the things that kill relationships, whether they are in the church or marriage or friendships, pride is the deadliest of all. For example, here are some things produced by pride.
I. What Pride Does to a Relationship
Here are some of the things that pride produces:
1. Pride Provokes Arguments
"Pride only breeds quarrels." Prov. 3:10
When you try to understand why people are arguing did you ever notice that it's the result of someone's wounded pride? Something was said, something was done, something was perceived as being an offense to a person's ego or pride and they became puffed up and quarrels then ensue. Nations go to war because of an insult to their national pride.
2. Pride Produces Misunderstanding
"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matt. 7:5
When our pride is hurt, our ego in danger, our ears don't seem to function anymore. When we are puffed up with injured pride we jump to conclusions; invent all kinds of supposed intentions and motivations on others' part and become very suspicious. When our pride is injured we become unreasonable and vulnerable to Satan's manipulation. (Why pride is the 'cardinal' or 1st sin.)
3. Pride Prevents Intimacy
"If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with each other…" I John 1:6-7
Pride produces the exact opposite of what we really want and need - intimacy. Boasting, sensitive egos, hurt pride, these are not part of the light of Godly living. It produces factions, strife and alienation. It is difficult to walk in the light of Christian fellowship if we are dominated by pride. People are impressed by humility and meekness; they are drawn to this because it is of Christ. Pride destroys intimacy and promotes loneliness and has a way of isolating us from other people.
4. Pride Postpones Reconciliation
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Prov. 28:13
Temper usually gets us into trouble, but it's pride that keeps us there. Have you ever notices in your own lives or family members who don't talk to each other, who avoid going to weddings or events where the other one will be at that many times they forget what the grudge is about - all they remember is that they have a grudge!
It's not offense or hurt or misunderstanding that prevents us from reconciling - those things can be talked out, apologized for, paid back. Pride is what keeps us apart in many cases - the refusal to come down from whatever righteous tower or protective bubble we've entered, in order to protect our pride.
II. Letting Go Your Ego
The title of this lesson is "Let Go Your Ego" - which is something that is very difficult to do. Understanding the problems, knowing what should be done doesn't make it any easier. One thing is for sure, we all have ego and it's the most fragile as well as precious thing we possess so letting it go is difficult. Of course by "letting go" I don't mean totally denying our sense of self - I mean letting go to exaggerated sense of self that leads to egotism and destructive pride. The Bible provides guidance in helping us let go of egotism and sinful pride that causes so many problems in our lives, especially in our relationships:
1. Accept Your Imperfections
We all understand the idea that "nobody's perfect" but most of the time we operate under the impression that we ought to be!
- "Don't thing you are better than you really are." Rom. 12:3
- "Who can say, 'I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?'" Prov. 20:9
- "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Rom. 3:23
These are not suggestions or criticisms leveled at us - they are a divine confirmation regarding what God knows to be true about us.
- God knows that we are imperfect, He wants us to know that He knows.
- The problem is getting us to accept it, not Him!
The first step in deflating egotism is to recognize that there is no good reason for it. Recognizing that there is no ground for our pride is the beginning of humility. Humility is not the absence of ego - humility is the ability of recognizing the true value of one's ego.
A humble person isn't without personality, he simply is one who has an accurate assessment of his true strengths and weaknesses. The humble person is a realist when it comes to himself/herself.
2. Recognize God's Grace
"What do you have that you did not receive?" I Cor. 4:7
Most pride is based in self:
- My ego
- My feelings
- My needs
- My glory/reputation, etc.
If we are the center of our own universe, we are then the source of all good and bad in our lives. The sin of pride is taking credit for God's work; assuming that our power is making things happen; taking responsibility for meting out justice when offended. In reality however, all that we have, all that we need is supplied by God's power and He does so because of His grace.
- He works from a basis of grace.
- We work from a base of pride.
When we recognize that our entire life is supported by God's grace several things happen: Our world finds its correct order.
God is God, we are the created - we are freed from the trap and sin of idolatry.
We tap into His power to provide for our needs which relives us of this burden. God hears the prayers of the humble. We begin to serve God rather than self which produces joy and peace in our hearts rather than anger and fear.
The more noise on the outside, the emptier the inside. A proud heart is empty of grace. Recognizing God's grace enables us to remove self at the center of our lives and place Christ in that position because He belongs there and we don't.
Another way of dealing with pride is...
3. Experience God's Unconditional Love
"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8
When the focus of our emotional energy is the love of self, the protection and nurturing of our own egos - we usually end up dissatisfied. We can never love self enough. Our love, even of self, is always limited by sin and - based on performance (we love ourselves if we succeed, we hate ourselves when we fail).
The kind of love that feeds pride creates a vicious cycle of highs and lows that never satisfies and leaves one hungering for more:
Look at the famous people who never have enough attention and applause and who are continuously miserable because the love and attention they seek comes from sinful humans and is always conditioned on their performance.
The way out of this cycle is to experience the "unconditional and perfect" love of Christ.
- This is a love freely offered because of God's goodness, not our own.
- This is a love dependant on God's ability to love, not our performance.
- This is a love that lasts as long as God gives it (which is forever), not as long as we deserve it.
- This is a love that is patient, kind, gentle, pure, faithful, controlled and generous - not subject to moods, conditions and circumstances.
Our pride, our self righteousness, our ego protection mechanisms melt in the face of this kind of love. When we offer this kind of unconditional love to ourselves and others, we will be free from the demands of pride in ourselves and avoid provoking the sins that accompany pride in others.
III. Summary / Invitation
"Before a fall comes pride." Prov. 16:18
"God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble." I Pet. 5:5
There is ample warning in both the Old and New Testament about the dangers of egotism and pride. We can deal effectively with these things in all of our lives if we remember to:
- Accept the fact that we are not perfect and that God is willing to deal with us this way. If He who is perfect is willing to accept us as imperfect - we should be willing to accept ourselves and others with all imperfections as well.
- Accept God's grace for our imperfections rather than masking them with pride and ego. Once we acknowledge our sins, it is such a great relief to depend on God's grace for our existence and salvation than the impossible demands of ego.
- Accept God's love. Egotism is looking for love in the wrong way and in the wrong places. God's unconditional love gives us the freedom to love others and ourselves in a way that promotes peace of mind and self acceptance.
This unconditional love was demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Even though we were imperfect. Even though we were full of self. Even though we hated Him. God offered Jesus' blood to cover our imperfections and reveal His selfless love for us and show us how to love ourselves and others.
We can begin experiencing this unconditional love by receiving forgiveness for our pride and other sins by believing in Jesus and being baptized in His name.