“I’m glad you see it my way. Things are going to go much better for you now.” “This church is really serving the Lord now. They are finally listening to me and putting into practice the things I have been saying.” “I am so frustrated in this relationship. Why can’t you just see things my way?”
A common thread in each of these statements is the subtle and deadly spirit of pride. As Christians we assess how our marriage, family, culture, and church are progressing. What is our standard? Normally, if we are honest, our standard is OUR standard. We may have Bible proofs and catechism phrases to back it up. Yet, at its core, we tend to judge everyone else by OUR standard. This is true for parents and pastors, for teens and congregation members. One thing we know for sure when we come into a Bible Study is that we have excellent insights to bring out and we can’t wait for others to see what we see. Is that a noble goal? It certainly is wonderful when Christians study the Bible and come prepared to be participants and not spectators at a Bible Study or various church education settings. The deadly problem, though, is will we come to that same Bible Study ready to listen? Are we even more eager to listen than we are to speak? It might sound holy, we might even say Biblically accurate things, but if our motivation and attitude is about showing what we know, and shaping the views of everyone else in the room so that the unity of the faith means they are united to MY definition of faith—then we have a problem.
Jesus calls His children to be disciples. Disciples are students. Disciples don’t graduate, move on, and stop learning. Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Sadly, many Christians falsely conclude that Jesus only expects us to learn until we reach our teen years, are confirmed in the Christian faith, profess that faith, and then we are free to go on our merry way. After all, our God-given duty after we grow up is to be the teachers of the next generation. Who has time to be a student when you have to be the teacher?
The wisest among us, however, continually remind us that we are to be lifelong learners. This applies in every area of life. For example, who would have thought even 15 years ago that so many senior citizens would actually own computers, tablets, and smartphones!!?? They have continued to learn, along with the rest of us. In a much deeper way, God describes a Christian as a person who IS teachable, always a student. Those who are responsible to teach and lead must continue to learn so that they can improve in their teaching and leading. A mark of dead orthodoxy is a church member/leader whose entire spritual growth is etched in stone at age 14 (their confirmation), and when they are dead and buried 70 years later, nobody can recount any further spiritual legacy.
The call to be teachable is an individual call, and also a corporate call. If God expects you and me to be His disciples in our personal and professional lives, then He also expects you and me TOGETHER to be His disciples as well. How has your congregation, how has your denomination demonstrated a teachable spirit? When we come into a situation ready to proclaim what we know, and not at all expecting to learn anything ourselves, we are in trouble. That is the spirit of pride, and not humility. The entire covenant people of God is instructed in 1 Peter 5:5, Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
So, I would plead with you to pray for your teachers in the Church. Pray that pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, parents, grandparents—that all who teach in any way would remain humble as they teach. Pray that in all our decision making and committee meetings at Classis, Synod, and in the local church, we would define success by the level of teachableness in the room, not by the number of people who see things “my way.” Pray that we would be always willing to learn ourselves, and desire that our students would see things God’s Way, not our way. Pray this for our private reflections and study. Pray for yourself, that as you come to read the Bible or listen to it in a sermon or study, that you come expecting to learn. Jesus chided His disciples for being afraid to ask questions (Mark 9:32-34). However, when we refuse to ask, we do still learn, but from a different source. If we are not taught by Christ’s wisdom, we will end up relying on the limited resources of our own heart, and ultimately on the wisdom of the world. So, come to Jesus, and learn from Him. He is our Teacher.
Rev. Kyle A. Sorensen, Manitowoc, Wisconsin