Sunday October 27, 2002 | Greg Boyd
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body [to hardship] that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Greg started this sermon with a review of the past few months. The “big picture” of God’s goal for Creation is love. God wants loving creatures that embrace and reflect love back to God and to others around them. Sin interrupts the flow of this love to us. This leaves a void in our lives that is supposed to be filled with love. This, in turn, motivates us to find other things to “feed on” besides God’s love. But the world has limited resources, and we are created with an infinite need for God’s love in us.
Greg started this sermon with a review of the past few months. The “big picture” of God’s goal for Creation is love. God wants loving creatures that embrace and reflect love back to God and to others around them. Sin interrupts the flow of this love to us. This leaves a void in our lives that is supposed to be filled with love. This, in turn, motivates us to find other things to “feed on” besides God’s love. But the world only has limited resources and we are created with an infinite need, a need for God’s love in us. Because sin is present, we are driven to other sources for life. As we know, the world has limited resources we compete with each other for these resources in our attempts to get life and meaning. As we saw last week, “envy” is the feeling we have when we participate in this competition and we lose. Today, we move on to the next phrase in the description of love: Love is not boastful or arrogant.
We boast when we display ourselves in a way that shows off our strengths (Greg mentioned the “peacock display” as an illustration) and hides our weaknesses. We do this to get some life out of others when they recognize our strengths. Arrogance is one step beyond boasting: if boasting is our displaying our strengths (acting like a peacock), arrogance is actually believing our own boasting (believing you are the peacock!). Both boasting and arrogance block the flow of God’s love to us and make it impossible for us to ascribe unsurpassable worth to others. The opposite of being boastful or arrogant is having humility. Humility is not necessarily “thinking less of yourself”, but “thinking about yourself less.”
Many of us are very prone to boasting and arrogance, and we are so good at it, that we hardly notice we are doing it. Greg gave the example of a time when he was proud of breaking a school record and how he would work hard to try to find a way to call attention to this achievement of his. For a while, he would find a way to work it into every conversation! Sometimes we display our body, our looks, our riches, or maybe even relationships we happen to have. We all probably do a little “name dropping” at times. We take some perceived strength of ours and we try to get a little life out of it by helping someone else to take notice of it. It makes us feel good, more important somehow. Somewhere in our minds we are thinking “if only they knew!!” and so we help them realize how “great” we are.
Greg talked about how the worst form of this is when it is done with religion. He recounted for us a conversation where he heard about a man who said that Mother Teresa was going to hell because of her bad theology. Of course, Greg was appalled and indignant on her behalf, but it went further than that. Greg noticed that he was actually getting some life out of appreciating the fact that HE (Greg) would never judge Mother Teresa like this other terrible, judgmental person had done! No, Greg knew that he was far too humble for that. But he then realized that this is just like the Pharisee who came and said, “I thank you Lord that I am not like THAT!” (see Luke 18:11). Then Greg realized that it is okay for him to disagree with this man’s opinion, but he needed to remain constantly aware that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is for this reason that no one can boast.
We did nothing at all to deserve our salvation and our forgiveness. Anyone who stands before God stands by God’s mercy alone. For this reason, we do not boast in our own abilities but rather in the power of God to save. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 31) We need not put ourselves on “display” like a peacock, but rather we are free to point people to the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. We should put Jesus on display in our lives!