…to be impressed with the status of any individual in any organization.
How’s your resume look? In our western culture we make resumes. We want people to know our status, what we’ve done, and how we have done it. We want to show off our accolades. There is some wisdom in this. I want my airline pilots and brain surgeons to have some relevant experience beyond a summer job. But, we subject ourselves to status. We seek to be impressed or to impress. For some churches, their pastor or elder must worthy enough to shepherd there. Or, a church would feel fortunate that God brought such a man to them of whom they are not worthy! And as in the previous chapter (don’t misunderstand), I have my heroes who are well known and not so well known. I do admire them. But, therein lies the danger. Where does my heart cross the line to follow blindly?
One of my historical hobbies is the study of World War II. I don’t know why; I just like to study it. Specifically, I’m amazed at the crowds of support garnered by Hitler. To be sure, not all Germans became Nazi supporters, but examine the throngs upon throngs of those chanting “Heil!” Even when it became clear that their dictator would sacrifice them, they continued to follow with blind obedience even at the costs of their children. Why so much devotion to a man and a very fallible man at that? Before we in the enlightened Christian church point too many fingers at that generation of Germans, do we not do the same? Do we not put some on pedestals so high that we blindly accept whatever they say?
The Apostle Paul became ticked off. From the previous chapter, we saw that he was not happy while writing a letter to the Galatians. Why? Lies crept in by those who should have known better. Some were adding to the Gospel. Some added to the blood of Jesus. Yep, that would annoy the Apostle! In fact, he would go as far as condemning an angel if it brought another teaching. We don’t mean the naked baby kind of angel. We mean the warrior, messenger type (see Gal. 1:8). So, if Paul would rebuke an angel, how about a human teacher? Of course! Did it matter who they were? Was Paul impressed with their status? In Galatians 2:6 he writes, “And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.”
In the last chapter, we saw that even the best can fail. In this verse, Paul takes it a step further. He will not be impressed with a status of an individual or organization. How does this look?
- We often grant trust just on pedigree. In Christian circles (and especially in educational Christian circles), the titles of Dr. or PhD. carry quite a bit of weight. On one hand, we get this. I understand that a college professor needs to be qualified for a position. On the other hand, the letters fore or aft of one’s name does not guarantee credibility. One of my most influential Bible college teachers did not have a doctorate. Shocking! Early in ministry, I desired a doctorate. I began to plan how I could accomplish it. I had not even determined what field I would master. I became restless and feeling like George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Would I be stuck in my own “Bedford Falls” and never pursue my dreams? In my life situation at the time, a doctorate would have been costly financially and relationally. I finally had to admit to myself that I just wanted the fame and prestige. It would not make me more Christlike. Jesus could do that himself. When I abandoned that dream, relief flooded my soul. It is not a sin to earn a doctorate. But, it is mistaken to think it automatically leads to godliness and credibility. Philippians 3 chronicles how Paul felt about qualifications. Apart from Jesus, they are a pile of dung.
- Many earn influence other ways. Perhaps they write a few books or lead a church of thousands. Outstanding! But, danger comes when we automatically give them credentials. They may be heretics. Paul warns that many seek to have their ears tickled (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Ear tickling often brings huge audiences. To be sure, there are many who have worldwide influence. I think of Rick Warren. While he is often attacked, I have yet to find the attacks to stand up to scrutiny. His books are translated into multiple languages. Saddleback Church is recognized worldwide too. I’ve never met Pastor Rick, but I assume that he would not assume people should give him a blank check of trust.
- God’s approval is more important. Paul says this in the Galatians 2 passage in the negative when he says, “God shows no partiality.” Stop and think: is God ever impressed? As a parent, we make a big deal over the first soccer goal or scribbled picture that we cannot quite make out. But, while we are excited and affirming, we are not really impressed. The Lord never feels, “Wow, what would I do without ______________?” He does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. At best, the only quality that gets his approval is faith. We believe and act on what he said. We live our lives trusting in a risen savior. Besides that, no one has accumulated any more brownie points than anyone else. When James and John sought the right and left hand seat near Jesus, he said it, “…is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matt. 20). I don’t know for sure, but I have a strong suspicion who gets those spots. Those two are not well known. They’re nobodies. God knows them well, though.
- Fame is not greatness in God’s eyes. Let’s all give a shout out to Maurus C. Logan! He’s not Tom Hanks, Benjamin Cumberpatch, Taylor Swift, or Lebron James. Who is he? He invented the cable tie wrap. I had to look this up myself. Most homes have cable tie wraps. Some grocery stores even carry them besides your basic hardware store. They’re great! But, most have not heard of Maurus. Fame and greatness are two different things. To be sure, many who are famous are also great and vice versa. Many who are great are not famous. This is especially true in church spheres. While many famous believers will be soundly rewarded by the Father, there will be many who do not have fame. Billions of great men and women of the faith walked this earth. They discipled kids. They kept the faith. They lost sleep, money, and comfort. Who’s Who did not include them. God knows them though.
I so appreciate those who have built status by their faithfulness. Heroes indeed! But, I refuse to be impressed with the status of any individual in any organization.