“You think you’re better.”
I have been remembering two times in my life when I have had this accusation leveled at me. I was sixteen the first time and was a shy and introverted new student at a new school. I have mentioned enduring bullying and how books were an escape for me. After a time, I didn’t need a book. I could build stories in my own mind-some of them I even attempted writing down-and had acquired the habit of shifting into my thought world any time my attention wasn’t required. I had done so at this time and only returned to the present moment when another student said my name and then said “you think you’re better than everybody.”
I was shocked. This student barely knew me. I’d only been at the school a few months: how could he possibly say such a thing? Fury came hard on the heels of shock. How dare he! Who did he think he was to presume to tell me what I was thinking! I said nothing-I couldn’t speak-but any hope of friendship died in that moment. It was true that I barely knew him as well but he’d proven himself to be untrustworthy and any good opinion I might have had was lost forever. It was so lost that many years later a co-worker recognized the name of the school and asked if I remembered this student. I hadn’t thought of him in years but it all came rushing back. That moment. Those words. Those words spoken in front of others and my public humiliation. Oh yes, I remembered. My face must have reflected how I felt because this co-worker never brought it up again.
I was once more shocked but this time shocked at how angry I still was. It was a cold anger and perhaps resentment would be a better word. That student was frozen in that moment in my mind. No matter who he was, how he’d grown, what he’d learned in the ensuing years, he was still the one who had falsely accused and embarrassed ME. I went immediately to God and offered it all up: the student, my feelings, all the unforgiveness I hadn’t known I was holding, it all was placed in the hands of The Father.
I believe the meeting with the co-worker was a divine meeting so that I would see this, offer it all up to the Lord, and the situation would be immersed in the cleansing, redeeming blood of Jesus. There was no longer any buried resentment to fuel my reactions and I was soon to be grateful for that. Because, only a short time later, this accusation would be leveled at me again. This time the words were, “you think you’re better than me,” and the words came from a close family member. They cut far deeper than the words of that student so long ago because they came from someone I loved.
By the time I faced this accusation, I was well into my walk with Jesus and was experiencing tremendous upheaval. I was seeing Him in a way I never had before and old behaviors were dropping away. I was figuring out how to live this life in Christ and how to live it in the midst of others. My loved one made a joke I simply could not laugh at and thus the accusation. I did try to explain that I was different because Jesus was making me different, that I knew very well I was superior to no one, that I meant no offence, but it was to no avail. Meetings with this family member became more and more difficult: when I did not laugh at jokes, when I refused to listen to certain music or watch certain television shows, when I would not repeat derogatory things about other people, I was proving I thought I was better. Not only that, I was being outright disrespectful and, ultimately, my family member cut off all contact with me.
I do not share this in some false humility that really intends to show how great of a Christian I am. Neither do I deny there are Christians who have a “Holier Than Thou” attitude. Let us leave them to the Lord. My struggle is this: as I shared last week, I am one who is called to come out be separate while still living in the midst of those who not only don’t believe but want nothing to do with Jesus. I have no wish to offend anyone but neither can I compromise this life I now live in Christ Jesus. How then do I live?
One of my Bible Teachers said the meaning of separate is more akin to “distinct” than it is “apart”. I looked it up to be sure. The Greek word is aphorizo (G873) and it means “to set off by boundary”. I suppose either “distinct” or “apart” can be seen here but, the more I meditated on it, the more I thought I understood what my Bible Teacher was saying. Consider, if you will, that the “boundary” mentioned here symbolizes the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has the preeminence. I do not live separate from the world so much as I live separated unto Him. In Him, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I am joined to Him and thus of one Spirit with Him. Because I am in Him, I am a new creation. My life is hidden with Christ in God and in Him I live and move and have my being. (Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 6:17, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:3, Acts 17:28) He forms a boundary around me and nothing gets to me but what it also touches Him. This truth is what I hold on to every moment of my life, in whatever situation I find myself in. It is the only identity I allow to define me.
This identity makes me special only because I am in Jesus Christ. I am not in Him because I am special. I have done nothing to earn it. I did not even seek God on my own: He revealed Himself to me. He is the one who called me and laid His hand on me. It was His goodness that opened my eyes and caused me to want to exchange my mind for His. I only love Him because He first loved me and revealed that love to me in and through His Spirit. In my flesh there dwells nothing good and it is He alone who directs my heart into love of God and patience of Christ. (Matthew 11:27, Romans 2:4, 1 John 4:19, Romans 5:5, Romans 7:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:5) All of this is for me! All of this is for everyone else.
There are so many scriptures that state God is the God of all peoples, where He has promised all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, that He wills all men to be saved. Here are three I must share: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
Again, these are a mere handful of scriptures but they ought to put to rest the idea that any believer has the right to think he or she is better than anyone else. God gave His Son because He loved the world. When I know how much He loves me, I can begin to understand how much He loves the world. I can act in no other way towards people while, at the same time, I do not seek to take part in anything that does not reflect the heart of God. This being so, what can I do when and if someone accuses me of thinking I’m better?
I live my life from Jesus Christ living in me by His Spirit. Doing so is a learning process and I am not so arrogant to think I act perfectly in everything I do, despite my desire to do so. I humble myself before the God who loves me and ask Him if there is any truth in the accusation. I ask Him to purify me in the fire that He is and burn out all the dross that keeps me from being His perfect reflection. I offer any apology I owe to the one I have wronged. If the accusation is false and I owe no apology, then I rejoice! It means Jesus has been recognized in me and I am blessed to be excluded for His sake! (Luke 6:22)
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.
Unless noted otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982
Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990