I often think of the need for us to have a healthy self-image, and there have been times when having voiced that view, either by written or spoken word, I have been misunderstood and stood accused of having an inflated opinion of myself.
I touched on it again the other week on this page when I suggested that if God has forgiven us, what right have we to remain unable to forgive ourselves for some past misdemeanour? And if the Christian church teaches that God loves us so much that ‘while we were still enemies, Christ died for us,’ surely that’s reason enough for us to hold ourselves in high esteem.
After all, wasn’t it Jesus himself who said that we should love our neighbours as ourselves? Consequently, the major prerequisite for respecting others is a good dollop of self respect.
One great example of this is Jesus’ mother, Mary, and this I suggest is an aspect of the Christian life that the Protestant tradition has much to learn about from our Catholic neighbours. Protestants often shrink back from even referring to Mary as the mother of Jesus, although to call her the mother of God, or the Queen of heaven cannot be justified, for the notion that if we pray to her, asking her to intervene on our behalf was clearly rebuffed by Jesus himself.
You will remember the Biblical account of the marriage at Cana. The implication is that someone spoke to her and asked if she could persuade her son to alleviate the embarrassing problem of having run out of wine - both were guests at the wedding celebrations: ‘The mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine,” and Jesus replied, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” And she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”’ - in other words, speak to him yourself.
That said, there’s no denying that she was the mother of Jesus, someone very special, do you remember how the angel greeted her? ‘Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ The angel went on to tell her that she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah, how about that for a surprise? Now, you will agree I’m sure that if that had been you or me the instant reaction would have been something like, ‘Who me? Why me? I’m not worthy! I’m not good enough!’ when the fact is, in God’s kingdom it has nothing to do with how well we perform, and I think that’s the lesson we need to learn if we ever hope to enjoy the peace and freedom that Jesus promised.
We need to stop this infernal striving to please God when he has already made up his mind to ‘love us with an everlasting love’. There are no standards to meet to qualify for his acceptance and there are no conditions attached to his love, that’s what grace is all about. So what was so special about Mary? Probably quite a lot, but mainly, she understood this: if God had decided that she should be the mother of his son, then that’s God’s business, not because she had been a good girl and not because she deserved his favour, that’s why her reaction was, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ That is the essence of simplicity, but are we big enough, of humble enough to embrace it?