The Seventh Day of Christmas: A King Blinded by Pride

January 1, 2014

It is a Naegeli family tradition on New Year’s Eve to pass the hours between dinner and midnight by watching the 1995 A & E version of Pride and Prejudice. It never ceases to delight and vex, and we have our favorite lines to recite from memory as they pop up in the course of the five-hour-fifteen-minute presentation. If we plan it just right, the wedding bells begin to ring right on the stroke of midnight; great fun.

The two main characters struggle with communication-choking predispositions:  Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) is a sulking, prideful man who is fixated on class and position; and Miss Elizabeth Bennett (Jennifer Ehle) forms prejudicial opinions of people based on scraps of information. How their pride and prejudice unfold provides terrific psychological suspense and a great love story (eventually!). But in the course of the evening, one cannot help but self-examine for those very same traits. To help us, we have another character in the Christmas story: King Herod.

For the Seventh Day of Christmas, we refer to Matthew’s version of Jesus’ birth. Chapter 2 opens with King Herod getting tweaked by the rumors that a rival king has been born in his realm. The account said he was frightened (2:3), which I find interesting, considering the power the man wielded to frighten everyone else. But the prideful king also known for his professional paranoia was fixated on retaining his position, and so he hatched a plan to kill his rival: pride, pure pride. We also see the prejudice he carried: on very little though disturbing information, he came to the conclusion that the baby born in Bethlehem must not survive infancy. He saw Jesus’ appearance as a threat to his temporal power, because he knew no other definition for the word “King.” And he showed no signs of recognizing the Kingdom of God as an entity either.

Both pride and prejudice have as their starting points one’s own perception of self and the world. Pride assigns greater worth to oneself than to others, and prejudice veils an accurate view of others. A person afflicted with these character traits cannot receive God’s revelation easily, and Herod is a glaring example of where that can lead.

Helmut Thielicke, in his two-volume Evangelical Faith, writes about the difference between a Cartesian worldview (René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”) and a non-Cartesian worldview in which God’s thought and action are sovereign over all. In the realm of faith, it is extremely important that we trade in our limited view of self and world for God’s view. A Cartesian view would exhibit itself, for instance, by defining God according to one’s own experience rather than on God’s revelation of himself. C.S. Lewis captured this idea of objectivity in Letter 4 of The Screwtape Letters, “The Painful Subject of Prayer.” Screwtape instructs the junior devil Wormwood to divert the human’s prayers away from the real God: “For if [the human] ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers ‘not to what I think thou art but to what you knowest thyself to be,’ our situation is, for the moment, desperate.”

If with the Lord’s help we can see the world and ourselves through God’s eyes, we are in a new position to reckon with the reality of our sin, receive its remedy, live the transformed life, and walk in the light of God’s presence. But if we remain stuck in our limited self-centered perceptions, creating an imitation universe we supposedly can define and control, we will not be dealing with spiritual reality at all, to our peril.

With a sense of urgency then, how do we turn our own pride and prejudice around? We start first with an acknowledgment of our own view and our propensity to define God on our terms rather than his. Then we ask God to erase our slate so that we can start over with a God-constructed view of our Creator and Savior. It was a conscious act for me, as my faith was being formed, to put my pride and prejudice on the shelf in order for God to make himself known to me. He did this through study of his Word, the Bible, which eventually intrudes upon us as God’s self-revelation. In the course of studying the Bible from Genesis to Revelation,  God not only showed his own character but redefined my own. Armed with that sense of reality, and all the graces and benefits of knowing Jesus as my Savior and Lord, I have been under construction ever since, according to God’s vision for me within the Kingdom purposes God is working in the world.


2 Responses to “The Seventh Day of Christmas: A King Blinded by Pride”

  1. […] The Seventh Day of Christmas: A King Blinded by Pride […]

  2. Steve Frank Says:

    Yes, and Amen!

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