Pride is wicked. Pride leads us to think that we are better than others. Pride causes us to look down on people. That’s why Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12:16). The translators of the King James version render a portion of this passage as follows: “condescend to men of low estate.” I typically like renderings of The Message, but I take exception with this particular selection: “…don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be a great somebody.”
Can you see what bothers me?
The NIV utilizes the word people. The King James employed the term “men.” The concept conveyed in Romans is simple to understand. We are to prove we are on mission by ministering to individuals in a socio-economic status different from our own.
Nobody is a nobody.
Everybody is a somebody.
I am a somebody. You are a somebody. The man with the cardboard sign on the corner is a somebody. We have all been created by God, and we all bear His image. As such, we all have dignity. We all also have needs. The stranger asking other strangers for money isn’t the only one needy among us. The rich have needs. The middle class have needs. The poor have needs. And one of those needs is for friendship. God created each of us with both the capacity and the need for intimacy. We must have friends. Our challenge, therefore, is that we carefully select our friends. As Christ-followers, we are not free to only choose our friends from the rich, famous or people-like-us classes. We are called to attend the wedding of the poor (John 2) and speak to the woman with the bad reputation (John 4) and accept the dinner reservation from the shady businessman (Luke 19).
We are called to live like Jesus.
Meditate upon His life on earth for a moment. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels illustrates that Jesus had no intention of being liked by the movers and shakers of His day. His selection of His disciples proved He was not attempting to stack His deck so that He would gain credibility. Yet he did not disdain those with more money than Himself (if it is possible to think of Jesus as lacking anything!). Some of His friends had more temporary wealth (Lazarus). Others were unemployed fishermen. Jesus could relate with people in any class. Jesus would minister to people in any social class. So should we.
This is a great opportunity for us to examine our lives. Think through your list of friends. Are they all like you? Do they make about what you make? Do they live in a house similar to yours? Does being seen with them in public cause you to feel good? One way in which you know you are probably obeying this verse in Romans 12 is that when you think of one of your friends, your answer to the questions above is “no.”
“Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did” (1 John 2:6; The Living Bible).