So, it finally hit me after watching parts of the wedding coverage and then The King's Speech on Friday night that the world I grew up in is much like British royalty. What I mean is that when I saw the way that Queen Elizabeth was dressed as a child, it very closely resembled the way families in our more affluent neighborhoods dress their children...smocked, formal, traditional, sophisticated...even elegant? The standard of Jackie O.'s refinement, glamor and dignified demeanor came straight from the pages of royalty and is something to aspire to for all the women who prefer to be classified among the royalty rather than the peasants or commoners.
The more I thought about it, the more I saw in my circles the similarities between between Prince William's life and that of the "upper class" here in the U.S. And I also remembered one of my own personal ten commandments to never act or appear "common". Table manners, speech, conversation topics and recreation all pointed toward one position or the other...can you guess which side Nascar falls on and to which golf is identified? But that alone is not enough because there is an ongoing need to prove one's own position as royalty through the kind of cars driven, vacation spots chosen, and a house filled with antiques and expensive fabrics. Oh please don't mistakenly identify me as common rather than clearly descended and connected to royalty!
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Phil. 2:5-7
The concern about not being mistaken as "common" was never a priority for Jesus in His time on earth. He knew His position in the only eternal kingdom and willingly forfeited the rights and privileges (and honor and glory) of royalty. He didn't just put on sunglasses and a hat as He made His way incognito through the crowds of common people to comfortable coffee shops and boutique clothiers. His humility was in the opposite direction, making Himself unidentifiable to those in more powerful positions and taking on in their eyes the full image of a servant, a working class commoner.
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. Matt. 13:55-57
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Rom. 6:8
Part of my dying with Christ is joining, by faith, in the knowledge that His Kingdom is not of this world but is even more real, more true and more certain than anything to be found here. It means that I join in His suffering by letting go of the importance of being identified as one of "these" and never as one of "those". But the suffering is enabled by the faith that as an heir with Jesus, my royalty in the only eternal kingdom makes my identification as a commoner here a light and temporary matter. My importance no longer rests on the perceptions of others, the class distinctions of whatever current society I find myself inhabiting or the identification with human royal blood.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. 3:26-29
Finally, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with redemption and an eye to loving others better? Well, for one, when I am preoccupied with my own importance and identity, I can only at best fit others in the margins of the space I must occupy. Not only that, but this standard of personal importance also gives me a new standard by which I value others, a standard as irrelevant to each of our need for a Redeemer as what kind of soup we like to eat. Yet, these self-selected standards of distinction are all the more supportive of the fact that I share Adam and Eve's arrogance in thinking I'm one piece of fruit short of being my own self-sufficient god.
In most every interaction, I will promote my own necessary importance to the person before me or the importance and necessity of my Redeemer. May my boast not be in how I speak, the exquisite manners of my children, the popular cultural I enjoy or disdain, the elegance of my personal presentation (ha ha...no worries there!) or any other distinctive between myself and others. If I boast, just like Paul, may it only be in my immeasurable need for the person and work of Jesus and His immeasurable extension of mercy and grace and love toward me to meet it. Oh would His transformation of my heart make me more interested in elevating those around me to positions above me than to seat myself in the place of honor before all others.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17