I recently took some flack on Facebook for professing that I did not want to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies.  Apparently, they are kind of a big deal.  I get that.  The summer Olympics only happen once every four years, and the hosting country gets a chance to do weird things to stand out.  Good times.

Let me be clear:  I have absolutely nothing against the Olympics.  However, I do have a bone to pick with ceremonies.  Pageantry, in general, really frustrates me.  I can’t stand parades.  I don’t like awards shows.  And I definitely don’t watch any kind of pageant.  (Note:  Also…not a huge fan of weddings.  I'll talk more about that tomorrow.)

Why don’t I like pageantry?  Am I just a cynic that randomly opposes popular events?  Not so much.  It’s just that I am not a huge fan of self-glorification.  Yes, I struggle with needing recognition and praise.  But the creation of events, the spending of money, and time and effort expended for nothing more than a showcase just comes across as being over-the-top selfish.  Could these resources not be used for more productive activities?  Does anybody really deserve this kind of recognition?

Especially within the church, why do we spend so much time recognizing personal accomplishments?  Yes, we should thank and encourage folks that are working hard for the Lord.  And absolutely, a lost person coming to know Christ deserves a standing ovation.  But why do we design these drawn out recognition services?  Is it really necessary to highlight everyone that follows in obedience? 

We should be serving to glorify God, not to get noticed.  We should be accomplishing great things for His Kingdom, not for our own resumes.  There are reasons to rejoice, and God’s love deserves to be celebrated with every breath.  However, all of these ceremonies and events designed to recognize our own efforts and accomplishments really do nothing more than make us look selfish and arrogant.

The vast majority of ceremonial events are inherently self-serving, and I am not down with that.  There you have it.  That is why I didn’t watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  That is why I never smile at weddings.  And that is why I only go to parades for the candy and to convince my children that horses are friendly. 

Call me a party-pooper.  Call me the Scrooge of pageantry.  I’ll gladly rock that on a t-shirt.  Bah, humbug! 

 
My son is completely obsessed with superheroes.  We can’t do anything without it turning into a crime-fighting adventure.  Going to water the plants?  We have to find the Joker hiding in the garage.  Headed to the grocery store?  We have to put the Riddler in jail before he steals everything.  I am actually pretty sure he thinks Mr. Freeze causes winter.

Batman, Robin, Superman, Spiderman, Hulk, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four.  They have become a part of my everyday life, and I could not be happier about it.  What better way to teach a child right from wrong than to encourage him to be a hero

At a recent visit to the park, my son was pretending to be Robin chasing the Joker all over the place.  At one point, he took a leap off of a structure that was a little too high for him to be jumping off of.  Luckily, he was okay.  But I felt the need to say, “That was a pretty big jump.  Be careful.”  His reply was absolutely perfect.  Without missing a beat, and with great humility, he said, “That’s what superheroes do” and resumed his pursuit.

In his mind, he was doing a job and anything that came with it should be expected.  There was no need to draw attention to or acknowledge anything that fell in line with his Boy Wonder job description.  He was focused on a mission, and that was all that mattered.

Why aren’t Christians like that?  I know some are.  I have seen them.  But those folks are rare.  In general, Christians are not very gung-ho about keeping their heads down, using their gifts for God, and actively sacrificing their own desires without seeking some sort of recognition.  Especially in America, we want to be recognized for our hard work, our talents, and our sacrifices.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Luke 19:9-14 NIV)

Often times, we won’t even do the work unless we know there is something in it for us.  Why have we let ourselves become so worldly that recognition has become such a powerful motivator within the Church?  Like my son, we should be ready to shrug off unnecessary praise and say, "That's what Christians do" and get back to work.  Not only is humility the right thing to do, but it is part of the job description. 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6 NIV)

Being a Christian is full of expectations.  We are supposed to give up all of our self desires and spend all of our time doing whatever God wants.  We are supposed to give without judging, seek justice without fear, love the unlovable, and be willing to sacrifice everything.  On top of that, we should do so while expecting zero recognition or praise.  Wow…that seems like a lot to ask of an adult with so many other responsibilities.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4 NIV)

I think I will go play superheroes with my son now.  Perhaps he has a few more things to teach me.