“How difficult it is to avoid having a special standard for oneself.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, p. 58
I tend to view myself as a ‘specialme’. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store, with 20 people in front of me, somehow I feel like I am the one person who is so special, that I should be allowed to go to the front of the line. When I do something wrong – like losing my temper or gossiping or building myself up while tearing someone else down, or when I kill someone and bury them in my backyard – I feel like I’m justified because I am a ‘specialme’. Now, if someone else kills a person and buries them in their back yard…well, that’s just wrong. No question about it. But me? Hey, I have my reasons, doggone it. If I want to kill people – if I want to be a cannibal – then it is my right. Me and Hannibal Lecter are in a different category. Don’t hate us just because we like to eat people.
I tend to believe that I am not the only one who suffers from the disease of ‘specialme-itis’. In fact, it seems to be something that has greatly infected most of Christianity. We Christians tend to believe that we are all a ‘specialme’. We believe that our identity as God’s Chosen people gives us special rights and privileges. God loves us. Therefore, nothing bad should happen to us. We are God’s children! We deserve to be first in line. We deserve to be healthy. We deserve to be rich. We have the right to kill people and bury them in the back yard. Cannibalism is just fine for those love God and are called according to His purpose.
You see, the trouble is, we take some very good, solid, theological truth and we go absolutely the wrong way with it. Let me explain. The Bible does say that we Christians are a chosen people. God does predestine us to be the elect. We are made holy by Christ. The Spirit of God is placed within us. We are Set apart. Adopted. Blessed. Loved. If you will, God, through Christ Jesus, has called us special. This is true. But this is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. The Gospel also tells us that we are evil. Diseased. The Bible makes it clear that God makes us special because He chooses us. He does not choose us because we are special. God takes messed up people – people who are selfish and angry and poor and desperate and murderous and cannibalistic – and He calls them His own. He saves them from themselves and He puts a new heart within them and teaches them to worship God and to love people.
But we go the wrong way. In our evil, we think that God has chosen us because we are Special. We think that God loves us because we are so pretty and so sweet and so holy and so good. And everybody else? Well, all those damned other people – they are just getting in the way. We are the specialme’s. Not them. Everyone else should bow the knee to us. They should Serve us and Listen to us and Recognize our Specialness. And so we create a special standard for ourselves. This special standard tell us that it is OK for us to mistreat the infidels. We are special. It’s no big deal to hate a godless evolutionist. In fact, God wants it that way. We are the special people. An army of Specialme’s. We have been chosen to do God’s work. So come along, Christian. Join me. Let’s join together to do God’s work on the earth. Let’s curse out an atheist for Jesus. Let’s shout down a liberal in the name of the Lord. Let’s blow up an abortion clinic. Let’s kill some Muslims and bury them in the back yard. Let’s cook some homosexuals and serve them hot with a side of beans and slaw. We are allowed. We are the Specialme. We live by a special standard.
No. No. No. No. No.
Again, we go the wrong way. Yes. We are special. We are set apart. But to do what? The Gospel tells us. Read it. Aren’t we are called to be last? To be poor in spirit? Doesn’t Christ call us to lay our lives down? Of course He does. The Gospel set us back straight on this. Jesus calls us to take up our cross. To love each other. To love our enemies. To worship God. We are called to admit our own idolatry before we ever point out the idolatry of others. We, above all, should be the first to admit our sin and to deal with the plank in our eye.
Jesus does not choose us and call us special so that we might claim God’s favor as a right that gives us permission to become even more idolatrous. Jesus chooses us to become a fellowship of ‘Little Christs’ – a people chosen to serve and not to be served. A people chosen to share in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. If this is true, then we have no right to claim a special standard for ourselves. We are not a ‘specialme’. But rather, we serve a Special God…a Messiah who ‘did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness; and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!’
If we are special (and we are) then it is the special-ness of Jesus that makes us so. It is Jesus who gives us the special privilege and ability to ‘do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility to consider others better than ourselves.’ If I have a special standard, this is what it should look like.
So, the next time I think about killing someone and burying them in the backyard, I’m going to try to remember these things. I’m going to try to remember that I am not a specialme. I don’t care what Hannibal Lecter says. Cannibalism is just wrong.