Tag Archives: Rick Warren

Some Thoughts About Humility

I’ve been thinking recently about how Christians are meant to be set apart from the world. One of my goals for 2009 is to memorize all of Romans 12, and for February I am working on the part about how Christians are called to “not be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind.” But what exactly does that mean? The renewing of your mind?

Basically, I’ve been wondering what it is about Christians that makes us “set apart.” You certainly can’t tell by looking at someone—especially these days when Christians of my age dress and act (in many respects) like your average hedonistic hipster. So it must be a difference in our behavior or attitude, right?

I was talking to a friend about this a few weeks ago, and he suggested that, at the end of the day, the things that really distinguish Christians from the rest of the world are humility and forgiveness. Humility and forgiveness…

I think he was right. This pretty much sums it up.

Humility and forgiveness are totally countercultural. They are things that go against every grain of our nature—a nature that is so fundamentally driven by pride. Pride is the original sin, and the root of all subsequent sin. To be Christian is to actively repudiate our pride-based identity and instead follow Christ’s example of a self-denying, other-focused existence. And don’t think that it’s not a bruising struggle.

Everything in our society urges us to embrace our pride—to “go for it” and “be all that you can be,” to have high self-esteem and self-worth because we accomplish great things. Our parents and teachers tell us we are special and that one day we will probably be famous. The Internet tells us that we can and should be famous now. Our economy is structured in such a way that presumes that everyone ultimately wants more: more wealth, more prestige, more renown, more significance. Pretty much everything most of us do is toward the end of bettering our lives, making something of ourselves, and leaving some sort of important legacy behind.

Christianity says, “deny yourself” and “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.”

It’s a crazy idea. To think that, even as every instinct within us clamors for the recognition and envy of others, we might put ourselves last and love others first.

Just imagine what Christianity would look like if we stopped being so self-obsessed! What would the world do if every Christian stopped trying to make themselves look good or sound smart, and humbled themselves to a place where everything they did was not about them but about how they could be used to bring God’s graces and glories to a world in need?

What if we all decided to live simpler lives and consume less, giving more of our resources away instead of spending it all on iPhones, expensive wine, and whatever other status symbols we accumulate to pamper our lives and project an image of stylish perfection? What if, instead of obsessing about our complicated relationships or fretting about silly things like how a facebook wall post might be perceived, we realized that the deepest thing Rick Warren ever wrote is totally, reassuringly true: “It’s not about you.”

It’s. Not. About. You.

It seems like if ever we are to truly appear set apart—in a desirable, “I want to go to there” sort of way (to quote Liz Lemon)—a good place to start is with some sincere, “it’s not about me” humility.

Yes, it’s hard. Insanely hard. And even as I’m writing this blog post I’m stuggling with it. But the most subversive thing about the whole idea is that, even though it’s hard and seems stupid and self-loathing to purge ourselves of pride, it is ultimately a much better and more fulfilling place to be. For when we remove our own self-aggrandizing tendencies, we open ourselves up to being conduits of some other, higher, infinitely more significant purposes—the purposes of God. It’s about Him; not us. What a ridiculously comforting thought.

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Rick Warren as “The New James Dobson”: Pros and Cons

I wasn’t able to attend the Saddleback Faith Forum on Saturday night, but I’ve read oodles of articles and commentaries from both right and left dissecting what it meant for the McCain and Obama camps. The consensus seems to be that McCain came out a little better off than Obama, which is predictable if only because McCain is a republican and Obama is not. It was ostensibly a republican event; Warren is a republican… it’s not surprising that McCain came out smelling like roses.

The real winner, however, is probably Rick Warren himself. For years he has been seen as the “rising star” of evangelicalism in America, and this event–which may turn out to be a pretty huge deal when all is said and done–could well solidify Warren’s status as the new voice of evangelical Christians. Indeed, as the “new Dobson.”

From my point of view, this development is mostly a good thing, and the following are some pros and cons of Warren assuming the reigns of the evangelical political monstrosity:

PRO: Pretty much anyone would be better than Dobson.
CON: There are many evangelicals who would be better than Warren.

PRO: Warren is a “brand name”– he’s legitimate in the eyes of millions of people who loved The Purpose-Driven Life.
CON: The Purpose-Driven Life was not a good book.

PRO: Warren is surprisingly focused on justice issues, poverty, and outside-America problems… things Dobson does not have the time of day for.
CON: Warren’s PEACE plan was too ambitious and by some reports has done more harm than good in Africa.

PRO: Warren is much more media-friendly and savvy. He doesn’t boycott things like Spongebob Squarepants.
CON: Warren is a little boring. It takes him actually getting Obama and McCain to come to his church and share the stage in order to grab headlines. Dobson can do it by taking a sneeze. But maybe this is a PRO.

PRO: Warren is a tad bit more ambiguous about his party affiliation than James “I could never vote for a Democrat” Dobson is…
CON: Warren is still a long way from Billy “Bipartisan” Graham.