The First Shall Be Last…Shall Be First Again?

BY Audra

September 23, 2013

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Last week we discussed the idea of challenging our students to perspectives of acceptance and love and, most importantly, not drawing distinctions between themselves and others.

However, we must be careful how we articulate that message, lest an equally strong reciprocal message be communicated.

What happens all too often in these situations is that a person whose eyes are newly opened to seeing and caring about socially labeled Inferiors in turn, eventually—though unintentionally—elevates himself or herself to a new level of superiority.

The enlightened person begins to look down on, disrespect, and rudely call out Superiors. So, what we end up with is an inversion of Jesus’s New Testament insistence of “the last will be first” (see Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:31, Luke 13:30).

Our attempt to attain humility can backfire in a significant and damaging way. One possible model:

1)   We recognize the flaw in society’s superiority complex toward certain disadvantaged persons.
2)   We identify with the disadvantaged persons, seeing them as human beings, putting ourselves on their level in order to understand their struggles.
3)   Humbling ourselves in such a way can make us resentful toward those who continue to act superior.
4)   We may start to view ourselves as more enlightened, and therefore better Christians than, those who have not yet learned to humble themselves.

If we follow this dangerous progression, we enter a cycle of being first, becoming last, and making ourselves first again, oftentimes without even realizing it.

In demonstrating a theology of love and attempting to eradicate any structures of inferiority with your students, how would you combat the tendency to become—in a sense—born-again superior? What scriptures, prayers, moral truths do you draw on to keep yourself and your students grounded?


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