I’ve been thinking a lot about “pride” lately. Christians and pastors talk about it a lot in a negative way and usually with the term, “prideful”. It’s also said to be the worst of the ’seven deadly sins’ (which isn’t Biblical but came from Pope Gregory I in 590 AD among others who got the ball rolling). I think it’s another case of Christian semantics and the English language screwing up a good thing.
There are two types of pride. One type of pride, the bad type, is when you feel superior or like you’re better than others – whether it’s just in your head or acted out. This is the type of pride that is proud of winning a football game or battle of the bands because you love that the others lost or were inferior – you feel you were better than them. It could also be the type of pride that shows you think you’re better than someone else because you can quote Scripture or know more about the Bible than someone else.
The other type of pride – the good type – is what many refer to as a “healthy sense of self” – healthy meaning “without comparison to others”. It’s awesome to be proud of yourself or others – because of what you or they have done – but only as long as it doesn’t involve comparing yourself to others – tearing others down. This is the type of pride that is proud of winning a football game, winning a battle of the bands, making good grades, or writing a killer screenplay – because you worked hard and did your best – and that is something to feel good about – or feel great about. You can feel good about yourself without having to tear others down.
Paul talks about pride in his letter to the Galatians. In chapter 6 verses 1-5, he says,
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (NIV)”
Paul is saying we can take pride in ourselves – but only after we’ve tested our own actions – examined what we accomplished and why – and only without comparing ourselves to others.
This is a great message about teamwork too. The Galatians were in the middle of a crisis and all sorts of ‘types’ of Christians were forming – the Jewish Christians, the rich Christians, the Romans, etc. – and they were looking down on each other feeling that they were better than the others – better because they saw the others making mistakes or stumbling. Paul’s letter tells us how we need to help each other when we stumble – “carry each other’s burdens” – just like great teamwork.
It’s also a great message about how churches should work together as the body of Christ instead of tearing each other down – but politics and pride (the bad kind) seem to often times get in the way. I believe Jesus wants His church to function as a top rated team – all working together and helping each other – in the battle of good vs. evil – and even wants us to be proud of what we accomplish.
It’s also just like Paul to pack way more into a few sentences. The message is also a great description of humility. If your buddy sins this morning, it will likely be your turn this afternoon – so be humble about it. Paul touches on it at least twice – “restore him gently” – meaning not to get in your buddy’s face about it and tear him down, and again with “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” – meaning that if you think you are better than others, that is proof in and of itself that you’re not – that you’re deceiving yourself (but most likely not fooling anyone else around you).
U2’s song, Pride (In The Name Of Love) is about people who died taking risks and standing up for something in the name of love. There are obvious references to MLK, Jr. (April 4) and Christ (betrayed with a kiss) – and not so obvious references according to some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (one man caught on a barbed wire fence) – which is where his body was said to be found.
But I’ve always wondered why Bono chose the name “Pride” for the song. The only place it’s used in the song is in the line, “Free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride”. To me, it’s at least another example of the good kind of pride – the pride of knowing you’ve done something in the name of love – in the name of serving others or putting others first – a pride that no one can take from you and that you can take with you – a pride that doesn’t involve comparing what you’ve done to what others didn’t do.