Jay, Brad and Keith [not their real names] were the coolest boys in the school. They had enough daredevil in them with just the right amount intelligence to easily gain a following. Besides they were 7th graders!
There was a teacher, let’s call him, Mr Rollins, who was a very interesting character. From the way he talked to the way he dressed, but nothing trumped his gait. Mr Rollins had the most fascinating way of walking. It was perfectly lopsided with what seemed like a deliberate leaning, a little extra on one foot. He never rushed, he walked slowly, cool as a cucumber. He not only walked that way, he also stood that way, he would seem to slow down, then come to a full stop and ease into a lopsided slouch.
One day, Jay, Brad and Keith, decided they liked how Mr Rollins walked and stood. They decided to walk just like him. They gave this walk a name, they called it ‘Rollin’. They were seen all over the school grounds’ Rollin’ . They were spotted many times a day standing in the perfect ‘Rollin’ slouch. Within a short period of time ‘Rollin’ caught on and we were all doing it, yes! even me and my cool girlfriends. It was fun. It was cool. Well, it was ridiculous. It was cruel. What made this ‘Rollin’ trend even more shocking was that not only was it done enough times by enough students that surely Mr Rollins saw it, and recognized it for what it was, but that Jay himself was Mr Rollins’ son. The trend caught on and stuck around for too long.
Trends and fads are a fascinating thing. Did you know that in 2015 one of the top ten popular trends for girls was tying a flannel shirt around their waist? Oh, you have done that one? What about the trend of shaving only one side of your head bald? Or the no-carb and low carb diets? Drinking only a smoothie for every meal? Or taking a selfie whilst standing on railway tracks or some other inappropriate position? Or planking? Or the diaper-like pants for guys? Or those other types of pants worn by guys, way past the normal waistband line to a new and incredibly low non-existent waist line, almost by the knees? That last one has been around forever, it seems. It’s simply amazing the things we humans will follow and imitate.
Trends have existed even in bible times. Oh, yes! they have. In the first book of Samuel, God was the king of the nation of Israel. Yes, a theocracy. This is how it had been since the time of Moses. God spoke and governed through the prophet Samuel. [If you’d like to know more about this prophet, I strongly encourage you to read about his birth and dedication to God in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2. It’s quite interesting] Now, a fascinating thing happened in 1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 15:
“Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the other nations.’”
Now, to be fair, before we pulverize the elders of Israel, they were right about one thing, Samuel’s sons were not the best of leaders. Simply put, they sucked. They were nothing like their father. Yet the elders were terribly wrong on two points, these sons were not their kings, God was. Secondly, their reason for wanting a different king was to be like the other nations. You see, the trend among the other nations was to elect a human King, have much pomp and ceremony over this mere mortal. For the elders of Israel, apparently a king looked really cool and they wanted one.
What were those other nations really like? Deuteronomy 12:30, 31 says:
“take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”
Yet the Israelites wanted to be like the other nations. Anyways, the story proceeds with God’s heartbreaking admission that His children had rejected Him. An election in effect had been held and Saul was voted in and God was out. This set a new trend with tragic results for the nation of Israel.
So, when you and I [I’ve followed my share. Remember ‘Rollin’?’] follow some of these fads and trends we are surrounded by, what exactly are we doing? Is it possible that most times we are in effect voting for Saul and rejecting our God? Now, I am not saying every fad or trend is bad but, by the grace of God, living by principle will always trump following a fad or trend.
Think about it.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
There is little room for misinterpretation of this verse, even though I [personally] have given it my best try. The meaning of the passage is clear: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder how big one’s ego would need to be in order to make such a declaration.
The Collins English Dictionary definition for egomaniac is: 1. Obsessive love for oneself and a regard for one’s own needs. 2. Any action dictated by this point of view.
The Urban dictionary, with a definition that edges that of the Collins, suggests that an egomaniac is a person whose ego exceeds both his intelligence and his capacity to see beyond his own personal interests. I couldn’t help but laugh at the latter definition.
So, is God, as defined by the Urban dictionary, a person whose ego exceeds both his intelligence and capacity to see beyond this personal interests? Is God an egomaniac? [Does he, in fact, possess the ultimate selfie-stick?] If so, then we are in trouble!
I remember a conversation I had once with a friend at the beginning of my Christian journey. It was about this very questions I am posing to you today. I was genuinely struggling with the idea of a being — any being, even a divine being, in fact, more so a divine being — whose power seemed endless stating that only he be glorified.
It seemed, well, for lack of a standard term, egomaniacal. My friend’s response was as follows:
“[Patience] this is how it works: The Father glorifies the Son, who then glorifies the Father; and the Holy Spirit is also in that glorifying mix. Therefore, we too must join in.”
That [attempted explanation] was obviously not helpful. In fact, it caused me even greater concern. But at the same time, a part of me also rejected the notion of an egomaniacal God. It simply did not match the image of the being that intervened in [human history] in the most awe-inspiring way to save me from my wretched existence.
You see, God knew that my problem was this: I did not understand what His glory was. [And, quite frankly, some of us may still not know.
In Exodus 33, verses 18 to 22, we learn that even Moses had questions about the glory of God].
“Then Moses said ‘Show me your glory’ and the Lord said ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on who I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. […] When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.’” Exodus 33:18,19,22
So, what exactly was the glory that passed by Moses as he hid in the rock?
In Exodus 34:5,6 we read: “Then The Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His name, The Lord, and He passed by Moses proclaiming ‘The Lord, The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
[Well then, is that not something?] God’s glory is defined as compassion, grace, slow to anger, abounding — not just full — but abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving a bunch of wicked people — renegades and rebels.
This is what Isaiah saw when he proclaimed “Woe is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts” Isaiah 6:5
Isaiah, the prophet, had beheld what makes the seraphims cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord Almighty” with their wings covering their faces [in reverence to God]. [He had seen with human eyes] pure love, completely and utterly other-centered. Love and grace in their purest and unadulterated forms, high and lifted up.
There is still that pesky and troublesome end of the verse in Exodus “yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” which, I suppose, you could get hung up on. I guess one could ask “Who are the guilty? If wicked people, rebels, renegades, and sinners like you and me, are being forgiven.” Who, then are these wicked people?
John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” I’ll put it simply, they have decided they would rather remain rebels, renegades; but most significant and tragically, sufferers, and suffering inducing. So what is a loving God to do?
It seems God is really an altruist. Yet that is an incredible understatement. As to live out His glory in a way we could understand He showed us His glory of compassion, love, and forgiveness hanging on a cross; beaten and bruised; pierced and whipped; bleeding and broken…. and all for you.
So, does God own the ultimate selfie-stick? No, he owns the ultimate YOU-stick. What, then, does He mean when He says “glorify me in all you do?” He means “live out my compassion and forgiveness. Be other-centered. Put others first.” But what if I decide to do things any other way than God’s? Going back to our Urban dictionary definition of egomaniac: a person whose ego exceeds both his intelligence and his capacity to see beyond his own personal interests […] I don’t think I need to spell it out, do I?
Well… we all have had our egomaniac moments.