By John Piper — Excerpted from Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (Crossway, 2011)
God hates pride.
“The Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low. . . . And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:12, 17).
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).
“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. . . . ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:28–31).
Pride is a condition of the heart that does not submit to God. It does not delight in God having absolute power and authority. It presumes to rebel against God or negotiate with God. Therefore, it can be secular or religious. Pride loves to be made much of by men. It craves human approval. It may try to look cool in order to intimidate others. Or it may be meek and retiring for fear of offending others. It can look strong, and it can look weak. In either case, it is consumed with self and what a select group of others think.
Racial tensions are rife with pride—the pride of white supremacy, the pride of black power, the pride of intellectual analysis, the pride of anti-intellectual scorn, the pride of loud verbal attack, and the pride of despising silence, the pride that feels secure, and the pride that masks fear. Where pride holds sway, there is no hope for the kind of listening and patience and understanding and openness to correction that relationships require.
The gospel of Jesus breaks the power of pride by revealing the magnitude and the ugliness and the deadliness of it, even as it provides deliverance from it. The gospel makes plain that I am so hopelessly sinful and my debt before God was so huge that my salvation required the death of the Son of God in my place. This is devastating to the human ego. And God means it to be: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). He saves us by grace alone so that we would boast in him alone. Pride is shattered.
And not only are we saved by grace; we live moment by moment by grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Therefore, Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:18). His entire life is a gift of grace. This rules out all boasting in himself. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
There is no power on earth that can break the power of pride except the gospel of Christ. Until we are broken because of our sinfulness and delivered from the sin of rebellion and unbelief, we remain hard and resistant outlaws to God—no matter how meek we may seem to man. The sin of pride will subtly contaminate all our relationships, even where it is not recognized. A disease does not have to be diagnosed in order to infect and kill.
The cross of Christ is the key to killing pride and living in humility. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Imagine what race relations and racial controversies would look like if the participants were all dead to pride and deeply humble before God and each other.