Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Maybe pride is not the primeval sin, but unbelief as in doubting God and his word (as I think Biddle says in what really is a most excellent book on sin, even if one does not agree with him across the board). Pride is on the list of the church's traditional seven deadly sins, and is considered "the original and most serious" sin of them all.

I like Dante's definition or description of pride: "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." Pride seems to have been Satan's downfall. But it also is a danger to us as God's people. Even the Apostle Paul was given from God a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan, to keep Paul from becoming conceited because of the surpassing great revelations God had given him.

Pride is subtle. As soon as we think we're humble we easily slip into pride. In fact to think we're humble is probably well off the mark since the mark of humility is Jesus himself. He alone could say, "I am humble/meek and gentle in heart," and that be entirely true. Not to say we can't and shouldn't have humility. We can be "poor in spirit" and yet end up becoming lofty in our own estimation of that, and thus end up being proud.

John describes it as a part of "the world" which we're not to love: "the pride of life". We end up exalting ourselves; life revolves around us and all things (including God) are meant to serve us and make us happy. This is one possible common effect of pride. Another is to just simply put up with one's fellow inferiors. And think that what one has to say or do is what needs to be said or done. Or that there are only a few fit for my fellowship.

But I wonder if the best way to understand pride is to look at its polar opposite. We see that in Christ, and as his community we're to live that out. It's a love that values others above one's self and demonstrates that love in service and sacrifice, if need be even of life itself. But it's a love and humility that finds its continual source in God. Only in Christ and together can we really begin to live this out. But don't look too closely or think you see it, because then it is gone.

Any thoughts or stories out there to help us?


Betsy Lin said...

Wow- I just spent the last month or so realizing that I was suffering from pride- a deep murderous pride that was running thru my body like a disease.
I always thought pride was just an action, but what I am learning is that it is a condition of the heart, and when the fall comes, it is painful, and destructive of not only those you are around, but mostly to yourself.
My disbeliefe in God, came from pride, my bitterness towards others came from pride, and now I am crawling back.

Ted Gossard said...

Betsy Lin, Thanks so much for sharing that.

I like the way you describe pride: a deep murderous pride. I've seen it in my own heart, even recently. I had to trace it back from the attitude I was aware of and James I think in chapter 4 awakened me to it, and helped me see it in my own heart: yes, a murderous pride. A pride that at heart would even like or even desire the death of someone who contradicted my ego. Wow.

But good to see, own up to and then accept God's grace in forgiveness. And I recall David's words in Psalm 51, "Deliver me from bloodguilt, O God,you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness."

And too, to know that while it is "I who live" I do so by "Christ living in me" (Galatians 2:20). I think that can help us especially as we learn to live more and more in that reality. Miroslav Volf really brings that out well in his book, "Free of Charge, Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped by Grace".