Have you ever paid much attention to how people introduce themselves? In those first moments of meeting someone, you can often tell what is most important to them. Some want to be sure you know where they work. Others want you to hear about their family. Some use the opportunity to prove they are smart or funny or compassionate or whatever. Invariably, when people have those introductory conversations, they size themselves up in relation to those around them. “I’m better off than her.” “He is smarter than I am.” “She is prettier.” “I am wealthier.” “I am more successful.” “She is superior to me.” It seems very natural in our world to measure ourselves by the standard of others.
These kinds of comparisons have been around as long as humans have walked the earth (think Cain and Abel!). But, Paul is very clear that such comparisons are not helpful. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, he writes, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” Paul was in a situation where there were some leaders who were trying to make much of themselves. They had fallen into the worldly trap of trying to make themselves seem important and powerful. But, Paul uncovered how immature and petty their games were. One of the church fathers wisely noted that comparing ourselves with others always leads us astray. It will either lead us to pride because we think we are better than the object of our comparison, or it will lead us to envy because we feel inferior to them. Either way, the comparison is unwise from the start.
That is why Paul confessed in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that he had once thought about Jesus from this worldly point of view. The actual term he uses is “fleshly.” Paul was saying, “There was a time in my life when I evaluated who Jesus was according to the fleshly measuring system used by the world. But, I won’t do this anymore because God has transformed me from the inside out (Cf. v. 17)!”
What this means is that we don’t determine who we are in relation to others. We determine who we are in Christ. My identity doesn’t come from what I do or from my list of accomplishments. My identity comes from who I am in Jesus. It comes not from the fleshly system of thinking that insists I need to be better than everyone else. It comes from the reality that those who drop the pretense and embrace purity of heart are the ones who really see God.
We have focused a lot on reaching out to this community. That is wonderful. I am excited at what God is doing and what He will do among us. But, that should never preclude the reaching in that God wants to do in our hearts. The best way to show this world the glory of God is for us to live lives secured by our connection with Jesus and not enamored with the same folly that leads the unwise astray. Let’s build our identity not on what we do, not on the world’s system of measurement, but on who we are in Christ. Let’s say as individuals and as a community, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”