This morning's Gospel reading from Matthew took me in the opposite direction from where it was supposed to.
Jesus is warning the disciples against being like the scribes and Pharisees who spend a lot of time being "greater than". They expect praise and recognition for their piety. they don't practice what they preach. What we are supposed to learn from this is pretty clear: Don't be a puffed-up jerk. Be humble, be faithful. Do without expecting praise. Lead without expecting recognition.
I get that.
But after reading this passage this morning, I realized that the other end of that spectrum gets on my nerves just as much. I can't stand the overly pious, self-effacing behavior of those who take this Gospel too seriously. In fact, this probably bothers me more than the puffed-up jerks of the world. I wonder if drawing attention to oneself by purposefully taking the lowest seat or waiting to only gather up the scraps doesn't have a similar effect to self-aggrandizement: it is alienating and counter to good community-building. Just as no one wants to be bossed around by a big shot, no one wants to be made to feel inferior for NOT wanting to be a doormat.
Anglicans have been talking about "The Middle Way" forever. It is, if I am honest, my fallback response to most dividing forces in the religious world is some version of this via media. When we are at our worst, this makes us Anglicans look floppy and uncommitted, as if we can't quite make up our minds on where we stand (see previous post). At our best, however, it means that we are making room for both ends of the spectrum (pick a spectrum, any spectrum!) and everyone in between. I love the middle way because it means that I have some thinking to do.
And this issue of grandiosity vs. humility gets solved for me in the middle way: Don't be a jerk, but don't be a doormat either. We were created for goodness, goodness we should be. I'm not really sure what that might look like, but I'm open to your suggestions. I think it has a lot to do with intentionality and motivation, about keeping God in clear sight at all times, and when our sight gets clouded, wiping the windshield and starting again. This middle way-- in this respect and in so many others-- is, for me, the Christian walk: purposeful and strong, but with a light respectful tread.