If anyone else says they have a pedigree to prove how good they are, I have more:
- I’ve got a circumcision to prove I’m Jewish;
- I’ve got a birth certificate that says I’m a blue-blood;
- I’ve got a degree from Harvard Law;
- I’ve got an ordination from Regent University;
- And I haven’t ever had so much as a speeding ticket.
But however impressive my record may be, it’s all worthless when it comes to Jesus. And not only that, but there’s nothing that even comes close to being worth following Jesus. None of it matters, and it’s all crap. All that matters now is Jesus. Following Jesus, my life is measured not by how many awards I can get, but by how true I can be to Jesus’ objectives, and how loyal to his cause. If I have to suffer for that, I know it’s worth it. The goal is nothing short of resurrection!
Obviously, I haven’t made it yet. I’m not perfect! But I’m going for it with everything I’ve got. Why? Because Jesus’ mission inspires and compels me! Brothers and sisters, I’m not there yet. But I don’t care what’s happened up to now, I’m moving forward, onward and upward toward the goal – Jesus has shown the way!
Either something is worth the effort. Or it isn’t. There’s no middle ground. For Paul, that something was following Jesus. Compared with that, nothing else mattered.
Notice that all the things Paul lists as worthless are things that involve other people’s recommendations and evaluations. They are social and political and religious status symbols. The upshot: what others think about you isn’t anywhere near as important as what you’re doing now and what your commitments are now in defining who you are.
If you are doing something worthwhile awards and status symbols may come your way (or they may not). But those accolades don’t change your character. At best, they provide yet another platform from which you can do more and better of what you do. Paul used his circumcision and birth certificate, his citizenship papers, all of that, to do more and better work for Jesus. To him, they weren’t signs that he had “made it.”
When I was a kid, we used to go every year to the big parade, the pro-football Hall of Fame parade. And there were always celebrities who would drive past in convertibles waving to the crowds. On the side of their cars the parade organizers would always stick a magnetic placard with the celebrity’s name. Some of them just had their names: William Shatner, Loretta Lynn. On they went. But others had their names, followed by an explanation: “So-And-So, Famous Actor.” Is it any wonder I can’t remember So-And-So’s name any more?
Some people have a string of letters after their name that goes on forever, and a curriculum vita that takes a half hour to read. But the truly remarkable people are those who may have all those letters but never need to use them. So much for titles.
If you’re doing remarkable things (and I hope you are), you don’t need a title or someone else’s approval. The point is to keep on doing remarkable things with everything you’ve got. If you do, everybody who needs to know, will.