He must increase, but I must decrease. Joh 3:30
Less of me, more of him. One of the pillars of todays christendom. I have to die, while he has to grow in me.
It wasn’t until I read a Facebook entry by Chris Valloton that I started to think about this.
Who said this in the first place? It was John the Baptist, when asked who he was and what he was doing. His answer: I am not the Messiah. I am not even worthy to open his shoe laces. I am but a voice in the wilderness announcing the greater one that comes. And, behold, he is near. Therefore, my ministry, that I so identify with, is almost done. I have to decrease, but he has to increase.
Or, as the Complete Jewish Bible puts it:
He must become more important, while I become less important. Joh 3:30
When did we start to mess with this verse? Why did we think it could be applied to our personality?
Granted, it sounds so humble. It fits religion as it was taught for centuries. I am but a sinner saved by grace, a worm in God’s eyes, or better, a grasshopper. There even is a verse for that: we are like grasshoppers in their sight. And another one: God resisteth the proud, but giveth to the humble. (This verse has to be proclaimed in Shakespearean English. Believe it or not, it is taken sic from the American Standard Version.)
I do not want to make fun of a deeply rooted christian believe and truth. To be humble is very important. But is to humble myself to put myself down? To make less of myself than God does?
God created you after his own image. He planned you way before the foundation of the earth. Yes, fall somewhat distorted that image. Sin got in the way. But Jesus at the cross, in his death and resurrection, made it all whole again. You are a new creation, after God’s image. Believe it or not – it is true. Our problem: we usually do not believe it.
OK. If Jesus went through all this trouble to make you new – can this new you be any bad? Would Jesus make anything less than perfect?
I hear all these answers: well, no, but …
Believe me, I know that my behavior does not measure up to the truth I am proclaiming. It does not make this truth any less true, though. I am a mature son of God. I am peace, I am freedom, I am grace, I am holy, I am righteous. Short: I am. I am Christ, and therefore I am of the fourth person of God.
To believe anything less is to diminish the work of the artist that made me, the savior that redeemed me.
God loves you. He cherishes you. He even celebrates you.
But what about all these less than perfect things I do, those character traits that still remain less than holy?
What I am going to say now is more than semantics: All these things are not me any longer. Those things do not define me any longer. These things are memories from a past me, the old creation, that want me to think bad of myself.
Thus it is not I that has to decrease, it is those memories that have to stay dead and not be resurrected all the time.
It is not him that has to increase, but me, the new creation in his image.
How do I go about this?
Instead of focusing on all my flaws from times way past, I focus on the new creation – Christ, he the head, and we – and for the sake of this argument – I the body.
Our mind has limited storage capacity. It manages data flood by deleting old memories. Focusing on the old flaws just reinforces the memories, while filling the brain with heavenly truths deletes them, replacing them with great new identity. Pondering the old builds new associations to old memories, reinforcing them, and putting them off the list of things to be overwritten. But the Spirit helps us select the right pieces of memory to overwrite with the new truths when we focus on truth. This is called healing. Guided, active forgetting. Paul calls it “renewing your mind” and “the renewing of the spirit of your mind“.
Obviously, our verse has an application in our lives. It has to be less about ourselves, but about him and others. Just as the Father points to Jesus, and Jesus to the Father, and the Spirit to both, and Jesus to the Spirit, and they all point to us, we are to point to others.
Humble yourselves therefore beneath the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may set you on high. Throw the whole of your anxiety upon Him, because He Himself cares for you. 1Pe 5:6-7
Do nothing out of rivalry or vanity; but, in humility, regard each other as better than yourselves – look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own. Phi 2:3-4
All these verses give us a practical definition of humility. To be humble means to trust in God. Anxieties, by the way, sometimes are a way of pride – expressing that you think you could deal with your problems better than God. Humility also is to point to others. God will exalt you in due time, with others pointing to you.
Therefore, invest yourself in the vision and interests of others and trust God to take care of you. In that sense, decrease, and increase others.
But never diminish the prefect creation of God that is – you.