This was a devotion written for Great Bridge United Methodist Church. Over the next year the staff are reading Brian McLaren’s book We Make the Road by Walking together. Throughout the year I will be posting devotionals and responses to book study.
“We humans have consistently chosen the wrong tree. Instead of intimidating and reflecting God as good image bears should do, we start competing with God, edging God out, playing god ourselves.” – Brian McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking (pg. 15)
Adam and Eve did it. So did Cain and Abel. You could probably say Saul, David, Pilate, the entire Temple hierarchy, and Saul (before he was Paul) did it also. I would be willing to throw it out there that Presidential candidates, (both Republicans and Democrats), pastors, community leaders, and little league umpires are guilty too. I know on occasion, probably more than I should, I have done it too. It would be a safe bet to say you have done it too, although I learned early on in ministry not to make assumptions about anyone.
It’s not really a question of why we would want God’s power for ourselves. Right? Remember the 2003 blockbuster Bruce Almighty? Bruce was an average beat reporter in Buffalo and desperately wanted to beat out his competition to become lead anchor. Bruce was desperate. He refused to take responsibility for his actions, blamed everyone around him for his troubles, and even called out God, “I am not being a martyr. I’m a victim. God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass, and I’m the ant. He could fix my life in 5 minutes if he wanted to, but he’d rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm!” Skip ahead a few scenes and Bruce finally meets God. God gives Bruce divine power (over Buffalo) for 1 week.
Long story short, Bruce could not handle the responsibility required to “rule over all” (Ephesians 4.6). And that is how God rules, divinely over anything and everything. That’s the hard part to remember right? When we think we are seizing control from God, taking control of our own lives and destiny, and blazing a path on our own we are just kidding ourselves right? We think we are working outside of where God can see us. We think we are hiding like Adam and Eve thought. We throw ourselves behind a tree and think that as long as we operate in secret, outside of the sight of God that we will be alright. If God cannot see what we are doing, hear what we are saying, or witness the way we are screwing over our neighbor we are a-okie-dokie
But here’s the kicker, according to McLaren (and what does he know, he’s just a theologian, sought after speaker, and pastor) Jesus “modeled a different way of life.” That’s what Paul is getting at in chapter 2 of his letter to the church in Philippi – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
When we follow the way that was modeled to us by Christ, and allow humility to be more present in our lives than competition or selfishness we are allowing our mindset to be focused in on not only the modeled life Christ left for us but also we are focused on living out that modeled life everyday. We consistently choose from the wrong tree because we are failing to live the life modeled to us by Christ. It’s not a secret or something that you need years and years of theological training to understand. Loving others as we love ourselves and selfless-sacrifice are on display in the first 30 pages of the New Testament. Start there.