“He must become greater; I must become less.” — John 3:30 (NIV)
John the Baptist clearly knew that since the Messiah, Jesus, has been revealed publicly — starting with the day that John himself baptized him — that his role in preparing the way was winding down. It is not clear that he had a sense of his impending death: King Herod would arrest him and after keeping him imprisoned for a season, would have his head chopped off. What is clear, however, is that John knew and embraced the idea that the time for him to shine as a preparer of the way was over.
The words he spoke here, while perhaps not intended for this purpose, nonetheless challenge us even today to consider how we might get out of the way so that Jesus might be seen in and through us. I do not believe that God intended for our personalities to disappear as we follow Jesus. But I am keenly aware of how much of my time and energy is spent devoted to me and my wants rather than to what is on God’s heart. The first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength”. My experience is that my own selfishness or egocentrism points to the fact that I only love the Lord my God with some of my heart and soul and mind and strength.
While failure in this area can be frustrating to each of us, John’s words here hint that Jesus “becoming greater” in our lives is a process. Any process is designed to take time and go through stages. A good question to ask is whether the Lord is greater in my life than when I started (and whether I am less). On most days, I think my answer would be that I can see that I have had some movement in that direction. Since God has pledged to be with us, guiding us and leading us in this process of transformation, we recognized that the burden is not entirely on us to become what we ultimately would want to be. It is helpful, however, if we cooperate with God when we are aware what God want us to do.
What else can we do to make progress in becoming less? If we equate “God becoming greater” in us to loving God more completely, how do we love God more? Those of you who have been following my reflections for some time are aware that my answer is to do what Ephesians 3:19 says: that to love God more, we need a greater revelation of how much God loves us. The only way to get such a revelation is to be open to receiving it, and to ask God to show you.
Do not be discouraged by how great you still are, but let us all press onward to becoming less through growing in our love for God!
Originally posted on April 5, 2010