Christian Pride — Made In God’s Image
Growing up in church, I was taught not to have pride. Whether the message was intended this way or not, I got the idea in my head that the proper moral way to be was to compliment others, and think only good things about them, while ignoring their faults, and to do the opposite for myself. It was immoral to recognize the good in myself because that was prideful, and instead I should only see the bad in myself.
It was a setup for destructiveness.
The Bible does speak of a certain type of pride that is sin, and in my opinion, this is the worst sin one could ever have because this is the sin that makes one resist the Gospel.
(And, in my opinion, this type of evil is what is really represented in the aptly named “Pride Parades” — events where men and women try to quiet the conviction of God in their own hearts and try to blame their own shame and conviction on “society.” Sadly, many so-called “gay” men are often hollow shells with a defensive pride, but with very little sense of self-worth.)
But when we are talking about the sin of pride, we must be very careful to define our terms. I argue that there is a good kind of pride and a bad kind of pride. Here at For The New Christian Intellectual, we often talk about a good kind of selfishness that we call Rational Egoism or Godly Self-Interest. Biblically speaking, a man ought to take care of his own life and seek that which is good for his own self. This principle is taught throughout the Book of Proverbs, and Jesus routinely speaks of a man seeking that which is good for himself (Mark 8:36). In the same way, we can talk about “virtuous pride” or “Christian pride.”
Instead of seeing ourselves as perfect creatures that are “better” than other people, or as worthless trash that is “inferior” to others, we ought to have an honest and right estimate of people as they really are, especially when each man looks at his own self. Many people think that Jesus said “Judge not,” but they are usually unaware of the fact that Jesus goes on to explain that we should judge rightly. The passage is not teaching that we should not judge at all, but that we should not be rash or hypocritical in our judgment of other people. In fact, a Christian might do well, after having truly repented of his sins, to be careful not to judge himself in unwise ways. “I do not even judge myself,” wrote Paul (1 Cor. 4:3).
As human beings, we are held in high regard by God and valued above everything else in Creation. We are the crown jewels, in a sense. It would seem that there is a sense where we hold a place in God’s eyes that even the angels (who are smarter and mightier than us) do not hold.
I personally struggle with being very harsh on myself. I think about myself as not being handsome enough, not being manly enough, and not being “cool” enough, and I struggle with this even as an adult in my thirties. But instead, I should think Biblically and rationally about my value. Biblically, I should recognize that, apart from Christ, I am a sinner, and I deserve Hell. But now that I am in Christ, my sin has been washed away, and when God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Christ.
Going beyond that, I should recognize that I am an awesome creation, and I am made literally in the image of God. And yet, how often do people look at themselves or at one another as trash, and in ways that are unfitting to look at a creature made in the image of God Himself?
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Later in verse 31 we see this:
31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
God said everything that He made was very good, and this would include every part of the first two human beings in unfallen Creation. Every part of their bodies, their souls, and their minds was called very good by God Himself.
We often wonder what it means theologically to be made in the image of God. It has been noted that man’s spirit reflects God’s spirit in many ways, but God is also described as being very human in appearance. Whether this is what God “looks” like as His native form, or if this is God revealing Himself in an appearance that human beings can understand, I do not know. But, in either case, when I as a man look in the mirror, and I am tempted to be self-deprecating, I need to remember in whose image I am created.
Psalm 139:13–14 reads as follows:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Notice here that the Psalmist praises God because he is fearfully and wonderfully made. This is far, far, far from any modern “Christian” notion that man should only see himself in a self-deprecating light. He is grateful to God because God has done such amazing work forming him in his mother’s womb. I should take that same attitude toward God’s work in creating me.
And yes, we live in a fallen world, but God is sovereign over even the defects we might see in Creation. And He often uses these flaws for His glory, like Japanese Kintsugi artists who repair broken pottery with gold. Consider what God said to Moses, a man who presumably had a speech impediment, and yet was chosen by God as a messenger to the Egyptians, a people who held eloquent speech in high esteem.
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
Exodus 4:10–13 ESV
In the following verses, God becomes angry with Moses. I think I always took this to be impatience on God’s part, but now I consider looking at it in a different light. Perhaps Moses here is telling God that what He has made is not good enough. I don’t know if that is the objective intent of the passage, and I despise any notion that Scripture can be interpreted by subjective whim. But how many times have I looked in the mirror and lamented that the creation that I am looking at is not good enough, that God should have made me different?
Have I been making excuses for inaction? Is that the kind of behavior that angered God that day He spoke to Moses?
Making It Personal
Something that I have shared with close friends, and may have alluded to in my publications is my fear of locker rooms, but not necessarily for the same reason most people might fear them, and not necessarily literal locker rooms. I am personally fine with the human body, perhaps because of my career in the biological sciences. When I see a male form, it is neither offensive nor homoerotic, but like the Statue of David, something to be admired and honored. (And I find a beautiful female form to be attractive, but as a gentleman, I avert my gaze.)
But I very much fear the social setting of a locker room — or more accurately what the social setting represents. This is a place where only men are allowed to be. I fear that other men will call me out and see me as an imposter: “You are not really a man! What are you doing here?”
It’s a fear of not measuring up — of not being good enough — of not fulfilling the value of what it means to be a man. Growing up, I envied guys on sports teams and perceived them to all be very close with one another and comfortable enough with one another even to shower together. Even more, I envied men in the military who had a band of brothers by their side in their lives. Similar to athletes, soldiers, marines, and sailors have no shame of their bodies around the men in their unit.
Typically when I go into an actual locker room, I am fine. I get changed and do what I have to do, tolerating the musky smell, and there is no second thought to it. But there is probably a heartbeat or two of fear as I cross the threshold. (Will someone in here see that I am a fake, that I don’t measure up to what it means to be a man? Will I be called out? Will I be misperceived? Will I have a misstep in a social signal? And will I then be rejected by all men? Sentenced to exile from the world of men?)
Being personal, I think this stems from periodic bullying during my time in school, and from a couple of bad experiences in my college years where I actually did have my masculinity challenged in a locker room. (But that is a story for another time.)
For me, the important thing is to learn that my value as a man, created in the image of God, has nothing to do with anyone else’s approval. It is not dependent on man. I am learning to recognize what God has said about my value. I am learning to be confident in my created identity.
My goal is that this sense of my identity should be based on knowledge, not on ever shifting emotions. A Christian’s Faith needs to be built on rock, not on sand.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
Thank you for reading my article. Far too often, Christians write helpful articles where the author is distant from the subject matter, but today I wanted to make myself vulnerable to my audience. While some of what I cover in this article may not apply to you personally, such as the fear of a social apocalypse while putting on deodorant after the gym, I am hoping that the principles will apply to most people. Rather than writing this article in an overly broad and generalized milquetoast sort of way, I wanted to write this article to myself as my own target audience, and I figured most of the readers who are relevant will figure out how to apply these principles to their own lives, and perhaps some of your feedback will prove to be valuable.
Special thanks to Cody Libolt for his feedback and suggestions while I wrote this article.
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