FAITH & REFLECTION — Have you ever wanted to be great? Most of us have…at some time or another, in some way or another. But it’s pretty tricky, because to aspire to greatness can be egotistical and self-centered…and like the guide told his clients, “You can’t get there from here!”
Perhaps a role model would be helpful. Jesus said “I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared” (Matthew 11:11). So what was it about John that made him great?
Though John was a popular figure for a brief time, his greatness was not achieved through riches, fame or prestige. In fact, he was very common and somewhat unorthodox.
John’s physical appearance and dress code was not appealing. His clothing was made of camel’s hair. His diet consisted primarily of locusts and wild honey.
His preaching was biblical, but blunt. His message was not “smile, God loves you” but, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).
His approach was not seeker sensitive, for when some of the elite arrived requesting baptism, he refused them and said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turn to God” (Matthew 3:8).
John’s career ended in a prison cell and his life ended at the order of a drunken King, energized by a young lady’s seductive dance and motivated by a promiscuous woman. Yet Jesus said that he was the greatest man that ever lived! Hmmm…what is so great about all of that?
There were three things that made John the Baptist great. He understood his purpose, knew his place and followed his principles.
John believed God and responded to His calling. His purpose, generally speaking, was to serve God, but specifically to point out God’s Son. He was faithful, fearless and fervent in his pursuit of this purpose.
John knew his place. He pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). When several of his followers left him to follow Jesus, he said, “Jesus must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
John lived an unusual, but principled life. He spoke out against sin, and even despotic, political leaders. His imprisonment and ultimately his beheading was a direct result of his principled, consistent stand.
Considering John’s life, it becomes evident that greatness is not something vainly aspired to, but humbly acquired…through character and conduct. John’s greatness was achieved by stepping outside of himself and spending the bulk of his time and energy pointing out Jesus and reaching out to others.
Greatness is not measured by how many serve us, but by how well we serve.