I think about myself way too much. I get tangled in a web of my own creation, constantly analyzing and evaluating my words and actions.
Paul seems gloriously free of these traps. The Corinthians were a little obsessed with image and reputation. They were concerned about who had baptized them. They were dividing over who they were following. Paul warned them that didn’t matter. He told them that the wisdom of the world was foolishness with God. In chapter 3, he tells them that whoever did the planting or watering among them, it is ultimately God who causes the growth.
It seems throughout the book that Paul’s reputation is being examined, but in chapter 4 Paul explains how he judges himself.
I constantly evaluate and judge my actions. Paul doesn’t do any of that.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-4
First, Paul says he should be looked at as a servant and a faithful steward.
Second, Paul does not consider any judgment made by the Corinthians, or any human court, or even himself, to be worth anything. Do you hear this? He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He doesn’t care what he thinks of himself. Who can say this in the year 2019 when we are constantly appraising ourselves through the lens of social media? One misstep on Twitter can destroy someone’s life!
The Corinthians didn’t have the kind of social media technology available to us, but don’t think they were that different. They had the same hearts, the same struggles with sin. They had their own kind of social media, their own courts of public opinion.
Paul refused to submit to their judgment or his own judgment. But he did submit to one person’s judgment, the only one that mattered, and that was God’s.
In order to make an accurate judgment about anyone or anything, you need to have all the information. Paul understood this. He understood that people’s opinions and judgments of us are fickle and often wrong. He also knew that his own self-assessment was clouded by sin. Only one person knows everything about us, from the first to the last, past, present and future.
So what is God’s assessment? What is God’s judgment of us? If we are in Christ, our judgment is united with him.
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
My own tangled web of self-assessment is a deception; it’s a trap of my own making. If I am in Christ, who I am is inseparable from who Christ is. As Paul said in Galatians, I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. He is my righteousness, sanctification and redemption. No longer looking inward, I can look upward and boast in that; I can boast in him.