Since I moved to Gallup back in September so many noteworthy experiences have accumulated in my life that it would be a waste in my own personal journey if I didn’t at least write some of them down. So I did. After a few, I was able to reflect on them and God taught me valuable truth. I want to share one now that happened a few months ago at a higher end shopping store in Gallup.
Walgreens. I now have a friend that works there, but before he started there I had an encounter with someone there that I will never forget. It’s a very long story that I will abbreviate for this blog posting so that I can get to the takeaway quicker. Suffice it to say, I met an eccentric man that said a lot of extreme things to me.
I was there to get a physical object to use in my Children’s Story the next morning in church. While I was looking for it this man said, “Hello,” while he pushed his cart pass me. I said, “Howdy,” back and that was my invitation for him to open Pandora’s box.
Right away he began to aggressively convert me. This lasted a good 10 minutes. Once he figured out I was already a Christian he flipped switches to wanting to argue about different theories about how the world will end (A one sided conversation where my thoughts were never aired). After a half a dozen instances where I corrected his misuse of certain Bible verses or made up verses, he finally calmed down enough to instruct me how I wasn’t going to the right church.
He didn’t even know which church I attended, let alone that I was the pastor there. But to him, he didn’t have to know because of how superior his little ‘Catholic Charismatic’ church was. Humility was not an obvious trait he was displaying to say the least.
I want to zoom in on one thing he said, even though there were a lot more interesting things said after this part of the story! But it was when he was describing his pastor and how great a man he was. Ironically, I don’t remember the pastor’s name so we will call him Pastor Awesome.
*(If there really is a Pastor in Gallup whose last name is Awesome, please don’t sue me ~ 1 Corinthians 6:6)
“Pastor Awesome is truley blessed and amazing, he is God’s gift to Gallup.”
“Sounds like a nice guy,” I said. (Genuinely, no sarcasm)
“You don’t even know. He’s preached to thousands of people before. I bet you’ve never talked to a thousand people.”
“Actually I did one time,” I said.
Without any hesitation or thought he said, “No you didn’t. Pastor Awesome is better than anyone here in Gallup. He’s a better man than you’ll ever be….”
The conversation and story goes on, but it only seems to escalate after this key phrase, “He’s a better man than you’ll ever be.”
That is what stuck out to me. I didn’t even defend myself because I thought, well maybe Pastor Awesome is a better man than I’ll ever be. If what this guy told me about him was true, besides that fact that he has preached to large crowds, then who am I to judge between him and I. Later on he did say that a woman in his church who prayed for him was, “more spiritual than Mother Teresa ever dreamed of being.” I called him out on that, but he defended his claim saying, “That’s not my opinion, that is the truth that God told me. It’s just as true as if the Bible said it. Thus saith the Lord. THUS SAITH THE LORD! THUS SAITH THE LORD!”
Too crazy to be a true story? This really happened and I have witnesses to back me up. But even after I left Walgreens and even up to a few weeks ago, I couldn’t get that sentence out of my head, “He’s a better man than you’ll ever be!”
Then I came across a verse in my reading that stood out to me because of this aforementioned conversation. Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
I could have tried to defend myself to this guy in Walgreens and try to impress him. But then what would that prove? After you boil it down, nothing. It wouldn’t confirm my identity, because only Christ can do that. It wouldn’t prove that I am a good person, because only God is good. It wouldn’t show that I’m better than Pastor Awesome, because there is no favortism for God.
Now I’m not saying we can never stick up for ourselves, but in this particular situation it wouldn’t have been appropriate. And the more I look at this scripture I realize it would have been selfish, not humble. The humble option is to consider others better than you.
So okay, Pastor Awesome is better than Pastor Andy. Eccentric Walgreens guy is better than me too. Person in front of me in line at Walgreens is also better than me. The alcoholic outside Walgreens asking for change is also better than me. Every aggresive driver I pass by on my way home from Walgreens is also better than me.
Now let me clarify, because otherwise you might head down a slippery slope that ends with a very low self-esteem and apathy. When Paul says ‘better,’ in this verse it is talking about how we prioritize the needs of someone in comparison to our own personal needs. So when you look at someone and say, “They are better than me,” it doesn’t mean they are socially better than you. Nor does it mean that they are better than you in terms of what you have accomplished in your comparative lives so far (like the Walgreens guy was saying to me). And it most certainly does NOT mean that God considers them more important than you.
But I think we need to look at more people and say in our hearts, “You’re better than me.” You’re needs are just as important as my needs. Your worries and fears are just as valid to consider as mine are. Your family problems deserve equal or more conversation time as mine do. I value you as better than me.
Start thinking in a healthy way, that others are better than me.
-Pastor Andy, 5-6-2014