By Basilea Schlink
Two pictures are placed before our eyes. The first is Jesus wearing the crown of disgrace. Voluntarily He chose to be the most despised and unworthy One among men. People hid their faces from Him, and "we esteemed Him not". Jesus! He is the One who deserves all honour in heaven and on earth, but He sacrificed Himself out of love for us and let Himself be disgraced.
In the other picture are we men, more or less wearing sparkling crowns of our own desire for attention and respect. We are much addicted to this desire. No matter what the price is we want to be the centre of attention. We make every effort to attain this goal and all other goals become secondary. The flagrant contrast between these two pictures shows us clearly how serious this sin is. It shows that our desire for attention flatly contradicts our divine calling to be remade in the image of Jesus.
The roots of this sin lie in Adam's fall. Through the fall everything lost its proper relationship. No longer are we primarily interested in being respected by God, being at one with Him in love. Instead we have a strong drive, often a passionate yearning, to be respected and esteemed by people. If we sense that people whom we respect and whose opinion is important to us, do not respect us, we become sad, depressed, unhappy and touchy.
But that is not all. In our desire for recognition we often seek to get into the limelight and pretend to be something we are not, or to have abilities we do not possess. So we become untruthful and, without realizing it, hypocritical. We think we are serving God, but in reality we are doing everything for our own honour, so that others will respect us, and thus we sin against the most sacred things. Then the "Woe" that Jesus said to the Pharisees also applies to us. "They do all their deeds to be seen by men . . . they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places" (Matt. 23: 5-7)
These hypocrites, to whom Jesus said "Woe", are threatened by Jesus' greatest judgement in eternity. That is why we cannot tolerate the desire for recognition and attention any longer. And this desire gives rise to so many other sins.
We hurt others, we are unloving and place them in the shadow, so that we can appear in a favourable light. Especially in our times, when it will cost us increasingly more and more dishonour, ridicule and disgrace to belong to Jesus and follow Him, our desire for recognition can be our downfall and can even cause us to deny Jesus. Yes, if this addiction to receiving honour from people is so strong in us, Jesus must lament over us-as He did over the Pharisees who did not accept Him, "How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44). So this sin of desire for recognition which is usually anchored in our personalities, separates us from Jesus and the divine life. That is why we have to get rid of it no matter what the price may be. What can help us?
First of all, we have to let the Spirit of God show us again and again how despicable our desire for recognition is, and then make a definite renunciation: "Lord, I do not want to be anything; I do not want to be respected." And then we will find that there is power in this resolute renunciation. Jesus accepts it. He, the Son of God, surrendered Himself to being despised and rejected by all. Now He can help us. What is His is ours. He has gained this humility, this desire to be nothing. Then we will receive the greatest gift. We will be respected by God. The Father said that He was well-pleased with His Son when He went down into the River Jordan and let others think that He was a sinner, not worthy of respect. This "going down" brought Jesus special love from the Father and gave Him the greatest joy.
Jesus forsook his glory and chose disgrace so that we could be redeemed from our desire for recognition and be changed into His image for humility. His lowliness, even to the point of dying like a "criminal" on the cross, is a sure guarantee of His aid for all of us who want to be free from our desire for attention.