How to be a Proud Christian

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All Souls Window: “Round our Restlessness, his rest.” from “Rhyme of the Duchess” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I’ve been wrestling with pride this week.  Several recent events and accomplishments have made me burst with pride for our parish and the many faithful people connected to us. This weekend, as we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people in Washington, I’m proud that this is not a new area of support for All Souls and doesn’t just happen one weekend a year. 

But is it right for me to be proud? Pride is, after all, one of the “seven deadly sins,” what St. Augustine called “the love of one’s own excellence.”  The Church teaches us to shun pride, and to pray that pride be lifted.

Pride is a problem when it becomes a kind of love of one’s own excellence blinding us to our own humanity.  But just as humility sometimes is misunderstood as allowing people to walk all over us, so pride can too easily be characterized as being always and everywhere a problem.  True humility and Christian pride overlap at the point of faithful discipleship.  When Jesus called the little children to himself, don’t you suppose they felt an appropriate pride?  When Jesus said “blessed are you…” to the many on the mount, wouldn’t an honest pride have been their natural response? As Jesus welcomed women, didn’t they feel newly and justly proud?

In St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians there is a masterful speech to the puffed up, self-congratulatory, egomaniacal in his midst.  He uses irony to say, “You want boasting?  I’ll show you boasting…” and then Paul lets loose.  He goes on to make fun of the various things people boast about, the roots of their pride.  Paul concludes, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11).  When we boast of weakness, we show solidarity with the poor, the children, the aged, the sick, the outcast, the misunderstood… and that’s Christian pride.  Through such pride, we can grow to understand ourselves to be accepted by God as good, blessed, and capable of great holiness. Through vulnerable confidence, Christ brings us to an appropriate place of prideful humility, a kind of “pride-ility,” if you will.  Paul echoes the earlier words of Jeremiah the prophet who hears God say, “Let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD: I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight” (Jer. 9:24).  May God continually work on us to blend pride with humility.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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