Status: Bridge or Barrier

Status: Bridge or Barrier

What role does our personal status and the status of others play in our lives? You can say you don’t care but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that status exists in our society. In fact, every society. If you think about it, right or wrong, status impacts the way we think of ourselves, the way we see others and even the way we understand God. In any group of people, things like rank, title, position, reputation, social and economic status likely limit who influences us and who we influence.

The issue of status goes deeper than influence because we can’t be influenced by people we don’t notice or give an ear. For instance, if a person is way down on any status ranking, he or she just seems to fade into the background of the moment. Furthermore, the importance we assign ourselves may unnecessarily elevate our perception of ourselves making others nearly invisible. That, of course, includes God being invisible to us.

If and when we do notice someone below our perceived status line, it is typically fodder for comparison or complaint. After all, we seem to cast others down or away attempting to feel better about ourselves. For example, in the following parable that Jesus told, the Pharisee noticed the tax collector but only to exalt himself. Which also means that we can reasonably conclude that the Pharisee didn’t see God clearly or recognize His status properly. In this case, the perceived status of the Pharisee was a barrier to his relationship with God and others for that matter.

LK 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In contrast to the Pharisee in the parable, the tax collector was humble which enabled him to recognize God’s status and to identify and respond to his sin. His humility was a bridge to seeing a need for God’s mercy. Allow me to point out that some of us self-deprecate which is different than humility. This is also a distortion of the truth causing us to miss God as we navigate through the fog in the valley. It neither helps us see our status or the status of God clearly.

A proper understanding of ascribed status and achieved status may also be helpful when we examine how we interact with others and respond to God. According to social scientists, ascribed status is neither earned or chosen because it describes categories like age, ethnicity, gender and family. On the other hand, earned status is measured by achievement like a college degree, winning a sporting championship, meeting qualifications for an occupation or profession and even hobbies that demonstrate remarkable skill. In either case, these can enable a feeling of self-sufficiency or the exact opposite, inadequacy. Regardless, when we are focused on our status, good or bad, we may miss God entirely because we don’t recognize His status. In fact, a fixation on personal status, positive or negative, seems to be a barrier to pursuing God.

All in all, we typically respond to Jesus based on how we see His status. It is very possible that we are unaware of His status because of unbelief or doubt. Sometimes we are blind to His status because our life is all about our status. Let’s not forget the impact of habitual sin resulting in a calloused heart. But when we recognize Jesus as Lord and King, Savior and Redeemer, we bow low and grasp His feet in reverent worship like Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning (Matthew 28). She recognized His status because she traveled with Him, observed Him, served Him and experienced His healing power when He cast 7 demons out of her (Luke 8:1-3). She never allowed her status, past or present, to interfere with His status.

Some of us may be feeling low because of things in our past, even a recent failure, that we can’t understand how God could love us and forgive us. Others of us may be flying so high because of personal achievement that we don’t see a need for God.  In either case, our status often distorts God’s status. We may not have realized it but status impacts the way we think of ourselves, the way we see others and even the way we understand God. In any subgroup, status creates restrictions for who may influence us and who we influence. Status may also determine who we notice and why we notice them. Some say they don’t care about status but we can’t ignore the fact that status exists in our culture. In fact, every culture, in every age all around the world. Why does understanding the impact of status matter? It can be a bridge or barrier. When we see Jesus for who He is, properly assigning Him Lord, King and Savior status, it builds a bridge. Otherwise, we find ourselves on the proverbial bridge to nowhere known also as a barrier to seeing and finding God.

A work in progress,
Pastor Gene