I never refer to myself in the third person.
“Jay Sanders wants some toast!”
Since I started driving, I’ve been pulled over a few times but I’ve never asked the officer standing outside my window, “Do you know who I am?”
“Mr. Bean? Tom Cruise’s younger, less attractive brother? Who? Here’s your ticket, now stop running red lights.”
When I finish preaching a sermon, I never stand before the congregation and act like I’m Superman ripping of his shirt.
“Mommy, what’s the pastor doing?”
That kind of behavior is reserved for a special class of celebrities and athletes most of us often like to refer to as arrogant jerks. By all accounts I’m no arrogant jerk.
All accounts are wrong.
I am an arrogant jerk and my arrogance and jerkiness is the most dangerous kind. It’s the kind that masks itself as humility, convincing others and even myself that I’m not like the narcissitic clowns on my television set.
“I’d like LeBron James if he were more humble. Like me, Jay Sanders.”
In my most honest moments I understand that the only reason I don’t refer to myself in the third person or ask cops if they know who I am is because I have no reason to. If, however, I’m ever named league MVP or win an Oscar you can go ahead and guarantee that you’ll see me riding in a car with a vanity plate that says 2 SMOOTH and asking kids if they want to be like Jay Sanders one day.
The truth about my arrogance came to a head a few years back when I was talking to my friend Gerald about moving. In passing I told Gerald that I didn’t like asking people for help. I assumed that this was a noble character trait. After all, I wouldn’t want to be a burden on any of my brothers and sisters in Christ. That wouldn’t be very Christian of me. Would it?
Gerald, as only he could, stopped me mid sentence. He stared me down and confronted the heart behind my seemingly insignificant comment. He told me that I didn’t like asking people for help because of pride. In so many words, he told me I was an arrogant jerk.
He was right.
I didn’t want to be indebted to anyone.
I didn’t want people thinking that I couldn’t manage on my own.
I wanted people to think that I’m better than I really am.
I wanted people to think that because I worked on staff at a church, somehow I was beyond needing to live in community with other believers.
Today, years after that conversation, I still struggle with my arrogance.
As a pastor, it’s very easy for me to talk a good game about community and to even create an environment of community all the while ignoring it in my own personal life. It’s easy to be like the politician that supports traditional marriage but has never cared too much for his three ex-wives.
As a friend, it’s very easy for me to listen to the struggles of loved ones, give them my best shot at wise counsel and even cry with them only to respond with a short, “Oh, I’m good” when they ask me how I’m doing.
“Oh, I’m good.”
You can just see the arrogance in those three words. It makes Terrell Owens look like the nice lady that taught my 3rd grade Sunday School class.
But there’s hope and victory in my struggle.
Thankfully, the gospel has not only saved me but is saving me from myself (Romans 12:1-2).
Thankfully, Jesus gives mercy to arrogant jerks like me (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Thankfully, the church is a place where I can meet with other arrogant jerks who are helping one another along in living out the gospel (Galatians 6:2).
Thankfully, my friend Gerald loved me enough to tell me that I was being an arrogant jerk (Galatians 2:14).
Everybody needs a Gerald.