Pastor Richard Freeman
Combating Pride - Psalm 139:14
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
Over the past few weeks in my career as a pediatric chaplain, I’ve witnessed three suicides and five overdoses, one of which was fatal. Over my 17 year career as a chaplain, I’ve had the privilege to walk with the survivors. The despair seems to leap from their souls. A common thread in most of their stories was that these children were bullied. My heart yearned to grapple with bullying from a biblical perspective. What gives rise to behaviors that devastate the soul so much that suicide and drugs are viewed as legitimate means of rescue? The biblical theme that under-girds bullying is pride.
In a recent sermon, to inject a little lightheartedness, I commented on how I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. When I catch that glimpse, I pause and say, “WOW! Look what God has done!” What struck me, just like in the hearts of bullies, is I often put the emphasis on the “WOW,” while forgetting I am observing the handiwork of Divinity—God! It hit me that this mindset is nothing more than pride. At some level, the “WOW” suggests I had a definitive hand in the design of what I have become.
Bullying is pride gone too far. Bullying, at its core, is a heart condition that states I am better than someone else. Bullying, acted out, takes on at least three dimensions: 1) Bring down someone I think is ‘higher’ than they ought to be. 2) Keep someone in their place that I think is ‘less than’ me. 3) Lift myself above others.
Psalm 139:14 opens with the words, “I will praise You (GOD).” THAT’S the cure for bullying! To praise God is to exalt God for what GOD HAS DONE! It places me in a calm place of humility that there is Someone (God) in control of this. In truth, I had zero to do with the complexion of my skin, my height, the shape of my face, nose or eyes. I did not orchestrate the nature of my vocal cords. My ‘raw materials’ were presented to me without any consultation with me. Thank you God for what you have given me.
The psalmist continues by saying a few words about the attitude God possessed when God made each of us. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (KJV). In their original language, the word ‘fearful’ means ‘with reverence’ and ‘wonderfully’ translates ‘with distinctiveness.’ In other words, when God made us, God took time to make us with our own uniqueness. The joy is that I am unique and a product of the Divine work of God. My external was God’s doing! I can’t brag and I can’t belittle myself. We each are God’s design.
The human eye must come to terms with the reality that God’s ULTIMATE design is very often flawed by the crude hand of sin (not sins. We will talk about that later.). All humanity lives in a sin-sick creation. As a consequence, we see the effects everyday: disease, mutations, malformations, etc. These are NOT God’s design. Thus, if sin has left its imprint on God’s design, no one has the authority to belittle anyone for that which they had no control. In fact, all of us, like birthmarks, are imprinted with some vestige of the consequences of sin. Though it may not be evident to the eye, we all are scarred. This should get rid of any tendency to bully someone else. (See Psalm 55:5.)
God’s design is our ‘raw material.’ Sin is evil’s ‘impurities’ in God’s design. But, what do we do with sins? Sins are our actions that we do that can have the consequences of blemishing God’s design for us. To counter the bullying and prideful spirit, allow me to offer a few insights. First, many of us have done the exact things (sins) that have left others outwardly scarred, yet we emerge outwardly unscathed. This truth should lead us to praise God, not wag our finger at (bully) others. Secondly, when we acknowledge our part (sins) in our own situations, the door for healing and restoration is flung wide open. (Read Matt. 11:28!) Healing and restoration are the byproducts of forgiveness.
When we see others struggling with the consequences of their sins, or we see others berating others because of those consequences, we are given the marvelous privilege to counter the bully whether within or without.