The following is a blog post from my friend, Geoff Surratt, that I thought I would repost. I struggle with this stuff daily. Heaven help us. Read on…
When my zone is called to board an airplane there is a competitiveness that rises up in me. I have to maneuver to get the best spot in line as possible. I’ll step over babies and elbow old women aside to make sure I get to board before others in my zone. And I’m not alone, seasoned travelers have a variety of tricks to score the best place in line. There is Ms. Camper who hangs out right next to the red carpet awaiting her chance to pounce. Señor Loiter hangs out nonchalantly around the desk until the announcement and then dashes to the front of the informal line that has formed. My favorite is Mr Oblivious who continues to talk on his cell phone as he pushes his way to the front as though he is much too important to be bothered with things like “lines”. I lean toward Loiter, though I’ve been known to Camp as well. The funny thing is that we gain no advantage pushing to the front. The seats are assigned and, unless you have a window seat, all getting there early accomplishes is having to stand to let the other people in your row get to their seat. (If you’re in the final zone there will be no overhead space by the time you board regardless where you are in line.)
I see this desire to be #1 everyday on Facebook and Twitter. We have the most awesome mom, the hottest wife, the most talented children. The volunteers at my church are way more awesome then the volunteers at your church. And when it comes to community service my congregation absolutely kicks butt!!! We baptize more, we serve more, we are just more. We’re #1. I’m #1.
Where does this thirst for first come from? What reward are we fighting for? I think it comes from deep insecurity. I must constantly prove I have value. I need a marker that says I am better, smarter, quicker than you. Or at least that guy. The airlines feed that insecurity by providing a well-defined pecking order. The most important are in 1st class, then Sky Priority, then Zone 1, then Zone 2, then the worthless peons seated in Zone 3 and beyond. Social networking gives us the platform we’ve been looking for: “Look at me, I am at the head of the line. I am winning and you are losing.”
It is this instinct, this deeply seated evil, Jesus challenged when he wrapped a towel around his waist and began washing his disciples feet. This is one of the most absurd pictures in the Bible. The God of the Universe taking the role of a slave. Peter saw the irony and begged Jesus’ to stop, but the lesson was more important than the protocol. The competition is upside down. The desire to win must be subservient to the command to serve. The first must be last. You’re #1.
Jesus knew that the drive to win, to come out ahead, to do whatever it takes to be at the front of the line could, would subvert the invisible Kingdom he came to establish. When I strain to finish first, elbow others aside, “sacrifice the individual for the good of the team”, surround myself with a culture that recognizes the supremacy of me, I ignore John’s admonition “He must increase, but I must decrease.” A lot of what passes for “success” is nothing more than heroin for my addiction to me.
I am seeing more and more the damage this addiction does both in my life and in the American church. We are building a Kingdom built on the greatness of us. Unless we humble ourselves and call on God we are headed in a direction that will not end well. And my biggest fear is that I will get there first.