In the last post, we talked about unity—the need for members of Christ’s church to be of one mind, having the same love, in one accord. Today we are going to discuss the greatest enemy of unity, the biggest thing that keeps us from embodying the mind of Christ in our relationships: Pride.
We will never achieve unity with other believers if we do not deal with the pride in our hearts that is endemic to our human condition. So Paul stresses that having the mind of Christ means crucifying our pride (vv. 3-4).
Paul stresses that the unity of which he speaks is not possible if pride gets in the way. Most of the time in human relationships, pride is the main problem. Pride was the original problem in the Garden of Eden. When we sin, it’s always ultimately a problem of pride because we are putting our self and our account of things before God and his account of things.
Pride destroys unity. It makes it impossible. Pride produces strife in the church, because it is characterized by what Paul calls selfish ambition and vain conceit (v. 3). Think of the sorts of attitudes and behavior that pride produces:
· Thinking you’re always right and never wrong
· The inability to be self-critical
Too often our pride, when it’s all said and done, is what gets in the way of our unity with other believers.
A Frowning Man, Pride, and a Pocket Knife
A couple of decades ago, I was pastoring a church in Connecticut, and there was a middle-aged man who attended the church. He had a long pony-tail and looked like he stepped out of the pages of a magazine from the late 60s. As a young minister, I would preach my heart out, only to be met with blank stares from this man. Sometimes, his forehead would wrinkle up as he frowned broadly while looking straight at me. At the end of the service, he would always greet me cordially as he left but never bragged on the sermons like the rest of the congregants.
Pride began to set in, and it seemed the more I worried about the look on his face and his reaction to my sermons, the worse his reactions seemed to become, and the more my inflated ego began to be bruised. I managed to develop a real dislike for this man.
Then one cold winter day, I was standing in the parking lot with this man and several other men. Standing there in the snow, I pulled out my pocket knife, which was old and had a broken tip. He saw it, and pulled out his much nicer, newer pocket knife. I just knew he was going to boast about his knife. But instead of bragging about his fine knife in comparison to my bedraggled one, he said, “What’s say we trade knives.”
I was in shock. Not knowing how to respond, I muttered, “Sure,” and handed him my knife, and he handed me his. Then he said, “When people ask me about this knife, I’m going to tell them, ‘This knife belonged to a preacher I once knew . . . [long pause] and he was a great preacher!’”
That day the Lord taught me a big lesson on pride and humility, and the danger of allowing pride and ego to make us think we have others “figured out.” I will never, ever forget that day, and that lesson on pride.
Humility: The Essence of the Mind of Christ
Pride will always destroy unity with other people. Instead of being prideful, we should be more concerned about others than ourselves. That’s what real humility is. Paul stresses that in humility—in lowliness of mind—we should esteem others better than ourselves (v. 3 b). And this humility—this lowliness of mind—should make us put others’ interests above our own. (4)
This is the essence of the mind of Christ.
Let us pray that Christ will conform us to his image as he enables us to embody his mind, motivated by our life in him, coming together with believers in unity, and crucifying our pride.