April 1, 2009

Be wary of pedestals

Occasionally someone puts me on a pedestal. I’m very uncomfortable in that position because I know how easy it is to topple off of it. I’m not worthy of being there and wonder if anyone is worthy.

Years ago one of our neighbors had the tape of every sermon preached by a certain radio pastor. He was her idol and example, definitely on a pedestal in her mind. She talked like him and reacted to situations with similar attitudes.

Since then, I’ve noticed that when someone idolizes another person, they might pick up that person’s traits and this could be good, but people on pedestals also have their flaws. That means those who idolize them often fail to grow in those same areas. It isn’t that their ‘worshipers’ imitate the flaws, but rather they fail to find other good examples to help overcome them. They are too busy with their person on a pedestal. Also, as Madeleine L’Engle once said, “Because you’re not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.”

Today I realize that this pastor on a pedestal doesn’t like being there. He wrote the devotional guide that I’m using and in today's reading he is comparing the difference between the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ. He penned these words, “Paul wasn’t perfect. He is not our standard of righteousness. Only Christ is a perfect standard . . . ” (John MacArthur. Truth for today: A daily touch of God's grace).

The Bible talks about the attitude of both men when others treated them unjustly. Of Jesus, it says:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
The Bible also describes an incident where Paul was on trial before the Sanhedrin. The high priest Ananias ordered him to be struck on the mouth. At first Paul didn’t realize who it was who said that. Nevertheless, his immediate response to Ananias was, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3)

Paul quickly realized what he had done and immediately had to apologize because such an exclamation against a high priest was against the law.

On the other hand, Jesus never broke the law of God. He had no sin in His heart and refused to retaliate. His example is always perfect and safe to follow.

As for Paul, he sometimes encouraged others to follow his example, but he also added, “. . . as I follow Christ.” He knew who deserved that place on the pedestal of our hearts.

Godly leaders are important and I can learn much from their life. However, I know the human heart because I know my own heart. I fall off my pedestal with the slightest things, an angry response, irritation at opposition, or even when I do well, a touch of pride will topple me.

The pastor who wrote these words is a humble man who knows the power of sin to sneak up on us and knock us flat. I doubt that he would ever compare himself with Paul. He also knows and tells me in today’s reading that Jesus Christ is our only perfect standard. Jesus knows how to handle whatever comes at Him without falling into sin, including the reviling of His enemies and the adoration of His friends.

The more I study the Lord Jesus Christ, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn!

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