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Boasting in the Lord

November 9, 2013

“Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  I Corinthians 1:31

That verse has always been something of a puzzle to me.  Just how do I “boast in the Lord?”  I’ve always assumed that it means boasting “about” God or “of” God but, while some agree with me, many do not and go on to list all the cool ways we can boast in God.

What I notice however is that there is another type of boasting that is all too common among believers.  It’s been going on for centuries and steams into today’s culture at full speed.  It is the boasting of our willingness to serve God faithfully under circumstances we know very well we will never face.

We can sit in our comfortable and affluent culture and cry “Just give me Jesus!” and win acclaim for our passion, knowing full well that we are never going to be reduced to just Jesus.  We can be like the farmer, who when asked by the country pastor if he had a million dollars would he give 10% to God.  He answers with a vehement “Yes, Pastor, Amen!”  When the pastor goes on to ask him if he had ten cows would he give one to Jesus answers “That’s not fair, Pastor, you know I have ten cows.”

Culture warriors are prone to such boasting.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read them saying they are willing to go to jail rather than sacrifice their religious principles.  That nobody is knocking on their doors to haul them off to jail, or even likely to do it in the near future, makes the statement ridiculous.  Yet, when it is uttered, you can sense the acclaim and praise that follows.

Young proponents of “radical” Christianity can do the same.  This thoughtful post by a young Christian touches this very concern.  My favorite line is “when Radical Christianity is popular, as it is becoming for my generation of Believers, then we must ask ourselves: ‘is the sense of abandon I have for Jesus costing me anything, or actually just making me more popular in the eyes of the people who I would like to be perceived by as more popular?’ If at the end of the day I was kicked out of my family, homeless, friendless, moneyless, and hated… would Jesus still be enough?”

Heck, it is even possible to boast that you are not boasting; to make it clear to all that you would never make such statements, thus winning the praise of all those who agree with you.  Such boasts, all too common and frequently in my own heart, sound uncomfortably like the prayer of the Pharisee “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evil-doers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”

Is it any wonder that, in most of Scripture, boasting gets poor reviews?  So what are we to do?  Here is a good rule of thumb – even if we are boasting about God, or think we are, does the boast increase the likelihood that we will be admired?  I can’t help but think that, in the verse I started with, Paul was not actually laying down rules for good boasting.  He was merely acknowledging that boasting is going to take place anyway and trying to warn us about some if it’s dangers.

At the end of the day I could probably give myself a headache in an attempt to make sure all my boasting is the right kind.  I suppose the best I can do is, well, do the best I can do, and accept that, when I get to heaven I will find, as C.S. Lewis said, “the joke was on me.”

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From → Christianity

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