The Condescending Gospel

condescending

We are privileged to have been given the word of God.  It is a word of vitality, a message of purpose, and a light to our path.  If God had decided to do nothing, we would either be dead already, or doomed to die without hope.  So the godly way of life and the Christian interpretation of our world are a gracious blessing from God.  When we find this way of life we should certainly feel privileged, because there’s nothing we did to force God to come down to earth.

Therefore, since the gospel is both an esteemed privilege to possess, and since it is so opposed to a worldly viewpoint, we are set up for a certain type of temptation: condescension.  The glorious position that God has granted to us is also a temptation to pride, to look down on others.  This doesn’t always manifest itself in outright hostility.  Because we recognize that the gospel is a message of peace that should be delivered graciously, we instead veil our pride.  It’s easier to cover up arrogance than to actually deal with it.  And we may not even be aware of our condescension.

We condescend toward others when we think they are lesser people for their misunderstanding of the gospel, but in reality we’re prideful towards them because they don’t think about the gospel the way we think about it.  We start making judgments about their hearts because, “they must be stubborn in their heart, otherwise they’d see the truth,” so we become patronizing others who “just don’t get it.”

Well, it’s true that some people cannot see the truth of the gospel because they don’t want to.  There are people “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).  But it is wrong for us to take this passage and apply it to everyone who thinks differently than we do.  If we can’t humble ourselves and listen to others who profess to be Christians, then we may be the ones veiled to the truth, as self-righteous and stuck in our ways as the Pharisees.

This is a difficult temptation, because we have been given the truth and it is a position of honor.  Ephesians 2:6 says that God “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  Why should we assume anything less than what scripture tells us?  We are to be exalted above all others when Jesus returns.

There are two things to keep in mind that will help us avoid condescension.  First, we must be humble enough to recognize that our understanding of the Truth may not be the Truth.  It’s one thing to say that we have been given the truth by God.  It’s another thing to believe that we have a monopoly on understanding it.

Secondly, the exalted status of a Christian is demonstrated through serving others.  Jesus washed feet, and went to the cross.  When Jesus looked down on others it was only because he was lifted up on the cross, serving their needs.  There was no arrogance involved.  May we all learn the glorious humility of Jesus as we grow in our understanding and speak to others about the gospel.

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But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. — Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)

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