My friend was telling me about this really good guest preacher at a recent retreat he attended — one I had preached at several times myself — and immediately my puny wicked mind tried to find flaws in the preacher’s theology. It was so automatic I felt the criticism go up my throat like acid reflux.
Why did my mind jump to this right away?
Why so jealous?
The whole time, my friend was saying how great this preacher was. I should’ve been thanking God for working through the guy. But my pathetic little brain was itching to play “gotcha,” looking for ways to poke holes in the sermon illustrations, finding an easy weak spot to conclude some horrible character flaw.
“Well if he talked about impurity, he must be a porn addict. You know, these passive-aggressive preachers are just exorcising their demons in the pulpit.”
Seriously: I was ready to say something this awful.
What if the preacher had actually sucked? Would I have been happy about that? Because part of me thinks: Yes, I would’ve been thrilled.
Suddenly the truth bubbled up through my conscience:
I don’t want anyone to be better than me.
It was violently disorienting. I felt sick to stomach. Finally I forced my mouth to say, “I’m really glad you were convicted by the sermon.” The words barely made it through my clenched contorted teeth and I seethed it through my pursed lips.
Why was it so hard to compliment this preacher I’ve never met before?