An acceptable sin

Pride is an acceptable sin.

It is not acceptable to God, of course, but both in culture and church, pride in its various forms is often not only accepted, but lauded.

In another day, one might have written a book and then waited for others to write reviews of it.  Today, it apparently has become acceptable to write both book and review (and give it 5 stars, too).

In addition to its regular appearances, pride is evidenced in particularly perverse forms as well:  “God can’t/won’t forgive me,” a prideful suggestion that one’s sin is so great that it supersedes the limitless grace of God; and “I’m just no good…,” a seemingly humble comment that often is merely a prideful begging for affirmation and praise; and “Oh, I could never ask him for help…,” which not only might be a lack of humility in the speaker, but can also be a subversive suggestion that the one spoken about would be too proud to help the one in need.

As Jerry Bridges has pointed out, there are other manifestations of pride as well:  moral self-righteousness, pride of correct doctrine, pride of achievement, and an independent spirit that is resistant to authority and has an unteachable attitude.

Pride has become one of our acceptable sins. But perhaps mankind has always been prone to this unwise choice, since Paul repeatedly addressed his concern about pride to the Corinthians in particular.

One word that Paul used is the one often translated “arrogant” or “puffed up.”  The picture is one who is filled with air so that there is the appearance of substance but the reality is emptiness.  Despite his repeated assertions, the prideful man is filled with nothing.

So it is foolish to arrogantly compare oneself with others, for everything we have has been received from God (1 Cor. 4:6-7).  And it is unwise to think that there is no such thing as accountability and discipline in the church (1 Cor. 4:18-19) — or discipline or wrath from God.  Such prideful thinking will lead one to not only engage in further sin, but also keep one from humble repentance for and grief over sin (1 Cor. 5:2).  Arrogant (puffed-up, self-inflated) pride is the antithesis of love, for rather than exalting others in humble service, pride exalts self and diminishes others and demands service (1 Cor. 8:1; 13:4).

And when these kinds of manifestations of pride become evident and open and confronted, we are tempted to acknowledge (with too little humility), “Yes, I struggle with pride…”  And of course the inference is, “it is too much for me; it is just the way I am, nothing can be done about it.”  And this “confession” thus becomes just another form of pride.

What’s the antidote?

Contemplate the cross.  What we have and what we are is due solely to the work of Christ.  As Paul noted earlier in Corinthians:  “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” (1:30).  As the hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling.”  If I am anything, it is only because of God’s grace and Christ’s cross.  I add nothing of value to Christ’s provision.  I am dependent eternally on Him.  That is why we pop the balloon of air-filled arrogance.  And that is why we also boast…in the Lord.

Yes, pride is acceptable, but before God it is only acceptable if it finds its termination in exaltation of God.  Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.

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