Pride? No thank you!
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes the one who has more might than I have, I am not even worth to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Mathew 3, 7 – 11
John sharply criticizes the religious elite of his time. Pharisees and Sadducees rely on their progenitor Abraham. That makes them proud. They do not need remorse or repentance, they say.
Even today people are proud of their religious roots. That's good if we can draw strength from these roots. But it is dangerous if my religious roots make me proud. Pride is a bitter root. Out of this root quickly grows contempt for other people. I have already heard contemptuous sentences: "He is a Protestant!" Or “She is a Catholic!" and "Oh, that's Lutheran!" Etc.
For example, I am a Protestant. I cannot help it. My parents had me baptized as a Protestant when I was an infant because they were Protestant. One of my grandmothers was Catholic. As a fourteen-year-old, I attended confirmation. A traditional festival. I only found faith in Jesus Christ when I was 40 years old.
No, I'm not proud to be Protestant. I cannot help it. But I am happy (!) that I was able to get to know the Lord Jesus Christ! And that's only due to his gift of grace!
Christians should not proudly flaunt their denomination like a trophy. This easily leads to looking down on other people. If you, dear readers, are Catholic, then you will enjoy it and stay that way. If you are a Baptist, then be happy and stay that way. Stay Lutherans or stay Anglicans. What matters is only faith, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. What counts is the trust in God, the Father. What counts is a heart filled with the Spirit of God (Romans 12:11). A heart that burns for God and your next.
John was not proud. He says of himself: I am not even good enough to take HIS shoes off. John is not worth in his own eyes for this slave service. He does not care about those he admonishes. As the Lord´s forerunner he is and remains a humble person.
John says: I am not worthy of taking off the Messiah's shoes. Jesus used to take off his disciples' shoes. Before Passover and before his way to the cross on the hill of Golgotha, he got up after dinner with his disciples “…he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5).
Jesus asked his disciples: "Do you realize what I have done for you?" Jesus asks his disciples. „Now since I, as your Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example in order for you to the same as I have done for you.” (John 13:14 + 15).
How about following this example? How about setting a good example in the coming weeks, serving other fellow Christians, helping them? Or celebrate together with them and have an open ear for their lives, for their faith? How blessed would we be if we left our religious trophies and pedigrees at home in the closet - figuratively - and go to the other fellow neighbor with a washbowl and apron? As a sign of appreciation. Maybe even a sign of reconciliation.
And if you feel that a wash bowl looks rather naive, take a salad bowl and fresh bread with you. Or a bowl of a good stew. I have found about 290 good recipes on the internet. Eating together with other Christians from other denominations and other communities is a good recipe against this pride of being something special!
I wish you a blessed week.