Who’s on first?

September 29, 2015

There are different kinds of people, of course. There are those who tell you way more about themselves than they ever want to know about you. There are those who struggle to carry on conversations about you or them. And there are those who want to know you and your “story.” Honestly, the first ones are a little hard to take after a while. Know what I mean? It’s fine to share our lives and our thoughts with other people. But when others NEVER seem to stop talking about themselves… UGH!!! I’m going to guess that if you are reading this some names and faces just came into your brain. You know who I mean? People in your life who are so self-absorbed that the Universe orbits around them and their interests. Again… UGH!!!

I have a rule of sorts that I try to abide by. I’m not always successful at it, but I try none the less. The rule is something like this; when I meet with people in different circumstances, I try to leave those encounters knowing more about them than they know about me. Not that I’m trying to hide anything, I just know that most people need an outlet to share their lives a bit. And honestly, I’m naturally curious.

Sometimes because of my lack of hearing… well, it gets a little adventurous. I met an elderly man at a gathering sometime ago. We began to talk and I went through my “list” of “getting to know you questions” that I ask folks with whom I’m not familiar. At one point I told him that I assumed he was retired, so I went on to say, “So what did you do for a living?” Men are usually willing to talk about the work they did for major parts of their lives. He told me he had been a “carpet salesman.” That opened up a conversation about that particular profession. I told him a good friend’s dad was in the same line of work. I asked if he sold retail or wholesale. Then I said something like, “There must have been a lot of modifications over the years. What were some of the major changes?” He said something like: “Well it used to be that you had to use wax to get a shiny finish but now outside of the buildup of dirt it just stays shiny.” Imagine my confusion. “Shiny carpet???” It was then that I realized he said he had been a “car paint salesman,” not a “carpet salesman.” So much for getting to know someone. 

Anyway, this is really about how or when we should put the lives and interests of others above our own. Allow me to share a verse with you that I have talked with several folks about recently. I have discussed it in the context of, “What is one verse you might memorize or hold onto above all others?” I know that’s a hypothetical question but go along with me for now. I don’t doubt that many might say John 3:16 or a number of other well known Words from the Bible. Let me suggest this one… John 3:30. I’m going to guess that not one person reading this even knows what that verse is. Allow me to share it in context.

John 3: 27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.” Read it again.

Do you get what’s going on here? John the Baptist recognized, acknowledged and embraced the reality that he was 2nd fiddle when it came to Jesus. And then this wonderful statement in v. 30… “He must become greater; I must become less.”

What would the Christian world look like if we took only this teeny, tiny verse to heart? What would our families and work relationships be like if we tried to emulate Johnny B? What if we actually lived our lives with a passion for making Jesus greater than ourselves and for allowing “us” to be diminished a bit? Yeah… I don’t know either. I have rarely seen it nor have I practiced it very well.

Mostly I’m around “Christians” who want everyone to know that they have a handle on the faith. They want folks to know that their brand of “Jesus following” is THE brand. While at the same time making themselves greater and Jesus less.
Years ago I was at a ministers’ conference in New Jersey with a dear friend who was also a Presbyterian Pastor. On the first day of the conference we were sitting at a lunch table with a group of other ministers whom we didn’t know. There was the casual conversation for a bit until we got down to professional “totem poling.” You know what I mean right? “What church are you with, how many people, blah, blah, blah.” At one point my friend and I were asked what Denomination we were with. When we answered them (i.e. “Presbyterian”), that was the last word spoken to us by any of the other ministers.

Set aside for a moment the current issues with the PCUSA since this encounter happened 30 years ago. REFUSED TO SPEAK TO US!! It seems to me that they and their issues superseded Jesus. I don’t think Jesus would have ostracized us at that table if He had been there. He might have corrected us on a few things… but Ostracize? I don’t think so.

Let me encourage you, if even for the next hour, to meditate on this verse… 30 He must become greater; I must become less.

What on earth and in heaven might that mean for your life?