Perry Emerick – Mesa Campus Pastor
One of the great things about being a dad and watching your kids grow and develop is to discover what they are naturally good at. As they grow, and their interests and abilities begin to emerge, you get the opportunity to witness them just pick up on certain skills and abilities seemingly effortlessly and naturally. A couple of years ago my son auditioned and got the lead role in his Junior High school musical of the Cat in the Hat. It was one of the great joys of my life to watch him perform that role. He just has a gift for it. My daughter loves gymnastics, and before we ever signed her up, she would pick up different acrobatic moves to the point where it was obvious we needed to give her more opportunities to develop it. Everyone has something they are naturally good it, and it is obviously fun to celebrate these positive attributes, but the truth is, there are a lot of negative attributes that people are good at as well…ones we typically do not want to see.
One of the ones I have noticed in people is the natural ability to speak to others in a way that subtly, and often not so subtly, can really tear a person down. It’s not constructive criticism, its just criticism; an unnecessary and undignified jab towards another, often coupled with a sense of personal elevation for the person doing it. There are really two ways this happens. The first comes in the form of topping another’s story or situation, feeling like we have to get the last word in, and it will always be better than than other person’s comment. Comedian Brian Regan has a great little bit about what he calls me-monsters here. But the other is when we simply use other people as a platform to build ourselves up…even if there is nothing there. It can be in the form of passive aggressive comments or sarcasm, always looking for the negative angle, assuming the worst, or just simply saying what comes to mind without considering the impact. And as noted, it is usually followed up with an elevation of oneself in some form. And the truth is, it is something I am good at too. Often, I seem to do it best with those closest to me as well. Certainly not something I am proud of.
In my reading recently, I read again the amazing encounter Jesus had at the home of a prominent Pharisee found at the end of Luke 7. While at the meal, a woman weeps at his feet, and uses her tears to wash his feet. She dries them with her hair, and then pours perfume on his feet. Now admittedly, this would probably be an awkward experience to witness, but the greater awkwardness has to do with the Pharisees.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” – Luke 7:39
Notice the implication…he is not a sinner, so therefore he is worthy to touch him. Now if I were Jesus, I would want to tear into this Pharisee, which some could argue he does, but really what he does is communicate that no one is free from sin, but our recognition of our sin will change the way we interact with Christ…and with others. Her experience with grace in the face of her sin compelled her to act graciously with others. The pharisee’s lack of grace in the face of his arrogance compelled him to act awful towards her…and Jesus. He was being a me-monster, and in doing so, missed an incredible opportunity to experience and dispense grace.
When we tear others down, I believe that for most of us, we are looking to feel better about ourselves and our shortcomings at the expense of others. I may not be ok, but I’m better than ________. But the truth is, Jesus, at his own expense, offers us the opportunity to be better. When we can recognize and embrace the power of his love and grace, we are free to build others up, because our value is no longer relative to how we value others; our value is defined by the sacrificial love and forgiveness of Jesus, who in the face of his accusers offered forgiveness.
In view of the Cal’s reminder to invite everyone and invest everything, consider this: who would want to respond to the invitation of a critical person? No one. Leverage your words to encourage others to experience what is truly different in the Kingdom, and in doing that, you are being like your King!