Many Christians celebrate the season of Lent. It is typically a time of self-examination and self-denial. Grace is necessary, of course, but the intentional focus on commitment intensifies.
During a sermon on Lent many years ago, I publicly confessed to the sin of pride. Someone afterwards told me, “You just said that to get conversation started, didn’t you? You really aren’t prideful.” To be sure, while I don’t color my hair, don’t drive brand new cars, and don’t consider myself materialistic, I nonetheless have often been guilty of prideful behavior. In my case, with the pride of titles.
This year, I told myself that I need to give up titles; that is, titles like senior pastor or reverend doctor. I am trying to focus more on serving others than building up status.
But the sin of pride runs deep. I often find myself with folks who place a great deal of emphasis on titles, even pastors, and then I begin to compare myself with them. Maybe I should have presented myself as Reverend Doctor Minister Pastor Kinsey. Sounds good, right? Credentials are important. But it is hard to switch off the pride button.
Titles, of course, serve many functions. Titles help us to distinguish one thing from another. When I say, have you seen “Braveheart,” you know what movie I am talking about because of its title. Or when I say “Doctor” I am making a distinction between all the people who have spent years in school studying from those who have not.
This use of titles is not unique to our time. Titles have been around for thousands of years. During this Lenten season, we learn about titles such as Servant, Lord, Lamb and Healer to understand who Christ is.
The other day when I was receiving folks at the door upon the end of worship someone called me by my first name. “Great message, Andy.” To which someone else responded, “He is Pastor Andy.” Okay, I am thankful for the recognition, but Andy is the name I received from my parents. I have been called worse.
But when does a title not capture the whole person? We are surely more than a document that hangs on a wall, or a trophy on a shelf; we are more than a title before a name.
The ugly thing about pride is that it can sneak up on us. Maybe no one can see it come through, but it is there just beneath the surface when we confuse our true selves as children of God with an entitled status that is often fleeting.
Maybe giving up a title for Lent sounds like a small thing. For me, it is about a long journey in the same direction, for which humility comes as a gift and grace comes as a reminder of who we really are beneath it all — children of the Beloved.
Andy Kinsey serves at Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin as one of the pastors. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.