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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Pride, Prejudice, and Jealousy

One of the most notable characters in the New Testament, other than the Lord Jesus Christ, is Simon - renamed Peter by the Lord himself. A full blown extrovert, he stumbled his way through all four Gospels with barely keeping his mouth shut. He was one of only three men in all of human history who had the wonderful privilege to witness the Transfiguration of the Lord to his full glory, and also watching the appearance of Moses and Elijah appearing in their post-mortal glories. What was talked about between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, only Luke gives us a clue (9:28-36) which touched on his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. But it was Peter, who should have been kneeling with his face to the ground, instead, his anxiety of such a vision caused him to speak, which all three of the Gospel writers recorded: Lord, let us build three tents: One for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Such a statement uttered out of impulsiveness without proper forethought is a hallmark of his character.

Another bloomer can be found in Matthew 16:21-23, where, after foretelling by the Lord of his accusations, death and resurrection all taking place in Jerusalem, Peter, swollen with pride, exclaims that these things would never happen to him. What was the cause of his pride? It was built on the commendation Jesus gave him shortly before for identifying him as "The Christ, the Son of the living God." It was this pride which opened the door of his heart for Satan to enter, and ending with the sternest rebuke Jesus has to make to anyone other than to the Pharisees.

Within the same person, I am wondering whether prejudice is related to pride. And there are at least two occasions where Peter had demonstrated this trait. The first was when God sends an angel to Cornelius with an order to dispatch some men to bring Peter to his home (Acts 10.) Peter was a Jew while Cornelius was a Roman centurion. Just before the men had arrived at Peter's lodgings at Joppa, Peter was praying on the rooftop, and he began to feel hungry. He received a vision of a large sheet, held by its four corners, containing animals which the Law has forbidden for any Israelite to eat, and therefore rendered unclean. The vision, which appeared three times, had to be used by God to break his prejudice and convince the apostle that the three Gentile men arriving at his lodgings were sent by God. Even at Cornelius' house, Peter had to utter such words which the Authorised Version has put so succinctly:  
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
In other words, it was an abomination for a Jew to enter a house of a non-Jew, let alone fellowship!

But even with prejudice overcome, remnants of it might be linked with fear. That is, fear of what others would think. Such was a classic case some years after the Ascension. Peter most likely felt rather nervous or ill at ease while eating at a non-Jewish table. Because as soon as some men sent by James arrived, Peter suddenly withdrew, even taking fellow-Jews, including Barnabas, with him (Galatians 2:11-14.) It was Paul, himself a Jew, who rebuked Peter in front of them all, calling his action an act of hypocrisy and not walking according to the Gospel.

Also in the case of Peter, a glimpse of a third trait, jealousy, is recorded in the apostle's character. This was when the mother of James and John, on one occasion, approached Jesus with a request for her sons to sit right next to him on either side of his throne (Matthew 29:20-28). The Lord's answer was that it was not up to him to grant the request, but that of his Father. Peter, along with the other disciples, expressed displeasure, to put it mildly, an acknowledgement of jealousy seen in the apostle's character - along with a momentary showing of pride and a more enduring sense of prejudice. But as I look into history, I also wonder whether the third trait is related to the other two. And I having studied some history, there is good evidence that jealousy has always been fully embedded in western culture. Using an example, reading about slavery which dominated the Deep South during the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries, pride in slave ownership, prejudice against social equality, and jealousy over the superior strength, good looks, and superb physique of each of their chattel, each making up the threefold pillar which supported such a culture, allowing the trade to exist before abolition in 1865.

As one who has been a believer in the Lord for over forty years, I would not be truthful if I was to claim freedom from these three emotive issues. Pride, prejudice and jealousy, each intertwining to offset my walk with God and from enjoying his love and blessings. Where is my source of pride? Much of it goes to what I have achieved - 35 years of running a business, worldwide travel - especially to the Holy Land - the ability backed by determination to write, despite leaving school without any qualifications nearly half a century earlier, to constantly work on improving grammar, style and so-forth. Then the strength and robust of our marriage over sixteen years, after constantly reading about how glamorous Hollywood-style marriages between celebrities break up as little as only after fourteen months as with the case of Russell Brand and Katy Perry, or 72 days with Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, or even as little as 55 hours - as was the case with Britney Spears and Jason Alexander.*

And celebrities - coming to think of it - there was one instance of celebrity pride I had to laugh at. And I ask you, the reader, to forgive me for seeing the funny side of what should have been a serious matter of misplaced egotism. It concerned a horse racing venue at Cheltenham, where spectators on a balcony, all second-rate professional footballers, were meant to be watching the races. Instead, one of them urinated into a glass in public and then emptied the glass over the rail. A day later a newspaper columnist, in direct reference to the incident, wrote,
When I was a kid, my (footballing) heroes were rarely pictured without a shirt-and-tie, when they weren't in their football strip.
The only snag with his argument was that both offenders, James Collins and Samir Carruthers, were dressed in shirt-and-tie, with Collins himself dressed in a smart suit.

Footballer James Collins throws his urine over the railing
And it is such a comment made by this columnist which arouses prejudice embedded within my own character - the British stigma about wearing a tie which suppose to bring an element of class to the wearer, and in turn engender greater respect. To be honest with you, I'm one of many average guys who don't like ties. Of course, I'll still wear a tie when circumstances call for it, such as on the last occasion which was at my father's funeral. But otherwise, I have always found the tie to be the source of physical discomfort and irritability, an opinion apparently shared by the majority of foreign correspondents and journalists whilst on duty, let alone by just about everyone you see strolling along the shopping precinct on a typical Saturday. I prefer to associate class to good character rather than dress style. But then again, I have always harboured a deep prejudice against the social class strata, along with the English idea that "I must know my place" - still felt in the air despite the increase in social mobility. It looks to me that such professions such as Government ministers, high ranking bishops and archbishops, along with movie actors, together with journalists and reporters, all having received Public School education. With the decline of grammar schools, it looks to me that this has brought a revival of this "Know your place" attitude. Just look at Parliament!

Then as a typical human, I too have my share of jealousy. Stemming from my parent's desire for me to have done a lot better at school, I tend to feel an element of jealousy at university graduates and their promising outlook of a choice career they have the ability to follow. Did you know that my childhood ambition was to become a surgeon? Very far fetched no doubt, but not from my primary school days. Journalism was my second option, especially if global travel was involved. As for wealth and possessions, surprising this may be to you, this has virtually nothing on me. Whether it's a big house, a couple of fast cars, or possessions, it has completely no effect in rousing jealousy. But on the other hand, a Facebook message that one of my friends was about to take off from Heathrow Airport to visit Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and California, on a cold November morning, caused me to sit on the ground green with sheer envy as I started the day's work. The same in the past, before I was married, when a good-looking friend and bachelor is seen for the first time sitting next to a pretty female, particularly in church.

The apostle James asks his readers:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you? 
James 4:1.

And he was writing to believers, not unbelievers! It goes to show that we who are regenerated as begotten of God are still not free from such earthly desires. It must lurk in all of us, including Christians. James takes our sinful natures as a matter of course, just as John, in his first letter, has written that anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar (1:8-10) and he is deceived. And apparently this applies to believers, as John addressed his letters to them.

Lately, after reading Isaiah's statement that many approach God with their lips, but their hearts are far from him (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8) my main concern was that this prophecy isn't being fulfilled in me, as it was with the Pharisees. Lately, I have stood outside and looking heavenward, pleaded with the Lord to draw my heart ever closer to him. It was at a time of ecstasy, as I have just completed a vigorous workout at the gym, and chances were that the Pituitary Gland was pumping out all sorts of "happiness hormones" into the bloodstream. It was a good moment for a heart-cry to God. And yes, I thoroughly believe that all Old Testament men of faith were drawn to God by his Divine power, and not by self effort, as just about the entire book of Jeremiah can attest, endorsed by Jesus in John 6:44, as well as the seventh chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. To pray for the Lord to bring my heart closer to him seems to be the solution to all my emotional problems.

Are there people who dislike me? I won't let that bother me any more. Even Christians who hate me? (Only one I think.) It no longer matters. Failed at school? No longer important. Wish I had a far more respectable career? Too late now, I'm enjoying retirement. Not a home owner or car owner? My eternal Home is in Heaven, and I most likely will fly! The wonderful truth is, that I'm loved by God, and I love him. My love for God is because he first loved me, and gave up his Son to atone for my sins. With such a revelation as this, it's not only have a humbling power, but also helps me to ask:
What else do I want?


* Source:- Platell's People, The Daily Mail, 19/03/2016.

Also, no infringement of copyright on Mark Large's photo was made as this blog page is not designed to make money.


  1. Dear Frank,
    Excellent point, that pride, prejudice and jealousy are interrelated, for they all stem from feeling superior to others. Praise God that He loves us anyway. As you state so well, what could we possibly covet once we truly experience His love?
    Thank you as always for the excellent post. May you and Alex have a blessed Easter,

  2. You're experience is not unusual. , but as you pointed out, when you stop to think about it you realize what God has given you. Peter was pretty typical, if a little more outspoken than most. When we realize what God has given all those other things become pretty insignificant.

  3. Hi Frank, so true, they all three stem from our fleshy nature that wants superiority and dominance. When I focus on myself, those three are what I see, when I look again to Jesus He humbles me with His forgiving love. I too have lately been asking Jesus to increase my love for Him, I know that goodness and truth only come from Him not of myself, the things that originate in me only cause me embarrassment and shame. Praise God from whom ALL mercies flow! :)