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I’m Not Great (Thank God)

I’m Not Great (Thank God)

APRIL 4, 2024

/ Articles / I’m Not Great (Thank God)

by Connor Lund

Mistakes and blunders checker my past, like a used dart board. If you’re like me, you prefer to focus on the future. After all, it’s what we feel we can control. There’s a reason why our windshields are larger than our rearview mirrors. We figure that if we can sway the narrative that we’re honestly and consistently striving to be better, more holy, more rich, more successful (at least, more than our friends), then we’ll have a life worth living.

As a byproduct of our western individualistic culture, I have a “me” problem. As a chronic navel-gazer, I’m much more likely to stare down at the scuff on my shoes than at the beautiful scenery around me. If I had a good day, it’s likely because I caused it to be good. If the day blew chunks, it was probably my fault too.

Unfortunately, it often makes little difference whether a person identifies as a believer in God or not. A quick survey shows that anxiety levels, mental health disease, divorce rates, and isolation have impacted believers and unbelievers alike in statistically similar fashion. In the West’s individualistic society, both groups intend to fix these problems in surprisingly similar ways.

Society says to find fulfillment, definition, and affirmation in your job, success, monetary worth, humanitarian accomplishments, relationship status, or whatever you choose as your success metric. And while the Christian believer is also prone to these things, all too often the church itself encourages its family members to focus on increased self-control, self-discipline, social or biblical justice, and “being better for Jesus.”

However, both of these postures make a god out of improving the “self” and points the focus inward rather than outward. What if I never improve though? What if being great was never the point to life at all? And where do we go when we’ve achieved greatness and still find life meaningless? Or what if, like the red hat motto suggests, we’ve fallen from greatness? What if we never were in the first place? Is the point to white-knuckle our way to the top?

Everyone is a slave to something. In the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul exhorts the church in Rome to live in the freedom Christ has bought for them.

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To live as if your life had not been freed by Christ is the equivalent to being a freed slave that continues to work the fields. It’s possible, but it by no means makes any sense. Instead of being a slave to our “selfish” desires and schedule, we church-folk often make ourselves a slave to our religious tasks and thoughts. The freedom that Jesus specially won for believers in Him through sheer grace has been traded back. The chains which had been broken off the wrists of the sinner have been soldered back together and placed.

Eternity’s standings have not been changed. Rather, the Christian which once had been free has become like the famous Robert Sadler, who was sold into slavery at the age of five, fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation. There’s a reason why Juneteenth is so drastically important to our African American and BIPOC brothers and sisters, and is increasingly so among the broader evangelical church. To be freed and unaware is to live as if you were not freed at all.

But, does this mean we have to just “try harder for Jesus!” like so many sermons on this passage have stated? Thank goodness, no! What if the solution wasn’t “self-realization,” but instead “self-forgetfulness”? What if, rather than playing the David that defeats the Goliath or the suave super-hero that swoops in to save the day, we realized we were more like Bush #2 on stage left, just thankful to be included in the story at all. What if we were never meant to be the main character in our own story? It’s not until we realize that we’re not really all that awesome that we can be pointed towards a life of hope, freedom, and joy, ultimately found in the embrace of Jesus and a spot at His table. Take a breath, brother or sister. Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He’s already saved the day. Let’s look up from our shoes and to Him.

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