But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. Romans 11:17-18
When in treatment for my chemical dependency, it was amazing to see how quickly a bunch of newly sober addicts could become judgmental towards those still struggling. Even though we’d just been using a few days earlier, we quickly lost all humility and embraced the arrogance of success. We were sober. We were doing well, unlike those losers still out there using. When someone relapsed while in treatment, we looked upon them in disgust. How stupid can you be?
I’d like to say that six years later, I’ve grown out of this, but the longer I’ve been in recovery, the greater the temptation is to think that I really am quite amazing at it. Having failed in such a spectacular and public manner, I should be humbled for all time. My pride though, seems to never die and still, when I encounter those who fail repeatedly, it’s natural for me to think that I’m better than them.
Unfortunately, this is also natural for Christians. Paul must have encountered Christian arrogance, as in today’s passage, he warned his audience against it. He said we should not use our new life as a reason to look down upon those who don’t believe. Do not be arrogant . . . If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
Faith means that we’ve recognized that we’re lost and that we desperately need God. Once we’re saved though, the temptation is for us to look down on anyone who’s not there yet. The Christian life however, is one of humility, continual dependence on God, and ongoing transformation.
I need God today as much as I did in the disaster of my addiction. When I forget that, and start to think that I’ve arrived, I become proud. In my pride, I become self-sufficient, and cannot rely on God. Pride is the antithesis of faith. An arrogant Christian is an oxymoron, like a sober drunk. The two concepts are incompatible.
Pride isn’t just ugly. It’s deadly to authentic faith. Christ saved us because we were lost. Everything good about us has come from him and we still need him desperately. As Christians, we must continually abandon our pride, remaining dependent on the one who continues to save us from ourselves.