Driving behind a truck moving way too slowly, I took the time to read the bumper sticker that said, “Don’t Envy My Progress; Look At My Strength.” The words struck me as odd, especially considering the speed of the truck meant its progress was actually pretty minimal, but the irony of that is for another discussion. Even still I’m finding myself trying to digest the significance of this twist in mindset. Unfortunately, the words are representative of a particular mindset that seems to be overtaking the actions and attitudes of the culture.
Progress can be used as a description of personal growth. Often times it is defined as either movement forward (especially in social ideals) whether it be the advancement of technology or acceptance of new ideas. Looking at recent year’s steps of ‘progress’ (as defined by those who define themselves as progressive) strength is exactly what I see. Movement of ideas and agendas over recent years is not accomplished by discourse and discussion (characterized by listening, respect, and compassion) but instead is accomplished by force. Consider the violence of protests in just the last three to four years that have included the destruction of businesses, property, and people. The pictures of cars burning, windows smashed, and people celebrating that destruction is indicative of the strength.
The problem with strength is that when it lacks purpose and control, it’s nothing more than destruction. It can be argued that the events that come to mind (which I’ve been intentional in not naming) certainly had a purpose, and initially that may have been true. However, the purpose was abandoned in favor of looking less at progress and more at the strength. It was a show of force that became the news stories and in that the message of progress being promoted was lost. Unfortunately, what is being billed as progress actually encapsulates a bully mentality of our society (consider the punitive measures and social media wars waged against bakers and florists who choose to be so convicted by the truth of Lord’s Word that their actions actually match their beliefs). Thus, the implications of the phrase ‘Don’t envy my progress; look at my strength’ is routinely manifested in our society.
Unfortunately, since strength without progress is resulting in destruction, the ongoing observable results of such a mindset indicate that something needs to change. As Christians, we must consider that our attitudes and activities are not merely a personal testimony, but impact how people think of the Lord. Therefore, we must be mindful of what we do and how we do it. The Lord Jesus Christ exemplified much with his life. Certainly, at times, his actions were indicative of a show of force; most of us think of his activities in the temple overturning the tables. However, in the moments, the Lord was very intentional in his actions certain to utilize them in order to take advantage to show the seriousness of the injustice and attitude towards God that were taking place. Never did his anger become the sole focal point and detract from his ultimate goal to glorify God.
The lesson here is that our convictions are our confidence, not our strength. More importantly, it’s our convictions in God and about God that generate true confidence because the purpose then is not to show strength to the world, the purpose is to show Christ to the world.
Photo “March 26, 2009” courtesy of user DiezWerks and Flickr.