In these days of equality gone mad, it is often frowned upon if you feel superior to someone else. The general sentiment seems to be that everyone is equal. I often wonder where that comes from, as the Bible teaches us exactly the opposite. Yes, everyone is equal in worth: Jesus died for all of us, in other words each one of us is worth as much as Jesus (unless of course God paid too much for your life). However that is where it stops: some people have a greater anointing, a stronger gift, a higher calling, etc., etc. The problem of course is that the world neither knows how to really handle superiority, nor what to assign superiority to. Today’s passage is full of examples of that.
In v.22-23 we see that the Jews did not like the idea of the Gentiles being included in the kingdom of God. They thought of themselves as superior, which led them to be exclusive. The truth of course was that they were called to be superior, but that should have led them to be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 22:18), a priesthood interceding for their neighbours (Exodus 19:6), and a light to the world (Isaiah 49:6).
The Jews were not the only ones to feel superior, as we see in v.24-29 the Romans were not much better. They used their feeling of superiority as a basis for lording it over people, and giving themselves privileges. Being a Roman citizen was being part of an exclusive club. (And Paul uses his ‘membership’ to avoid unnecessary suffering.)
In chapter 23:2, the high priest obviously feels so superior that he thinks he is above the law. And the Pharisees and Sadducees, in v.6-10, both also feel superior to one another. (Again something Paul used against them.) In every one of these situations their sense of superiority led to the exclusion of others, violence, and division. Maybe that is why the world today frowns upon superiority.
There is however a superiority that is good, and that is the superiority that come of being Kingdom citizens. Paul knew that above everything else his citizenship was that of the Kingdom of God. Everything in the Kingdom is based on Jesus, and I think we can all agree that He was superior in every way. He lived a life that was far superior to anyone else, and we are called to do the same. We are new creations in Christ Jesus, He is our life, and the more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him.
So what does real superiority look like? First of all, it comes from the knowledge that we are better only because of Him, and that it is not exclusive but available to all. Like the Jews we are called to be superior, but we have also been given the means to do so. When we look at Jesus, we see that everything is always based on love. Love for God and love for people around us. It is based on grace and on the goodness of God. To be really superior means to accept others, to be a person of righteousness and peace, to promote unity and compassion, to display power and love, to forgive, to care, to reach out, to draw in. It means to be content with taking the lowest place. It also means to live a life that is often diametrically opposed to the world around us; yet a life the world desires, but does not know how to get.
Draw close to Jesus every day. Let Him daily change you more and more into His likeness. Live a life that is truly superior, be an living example of Kingdom superiority, and one day you will stand up like Paul in 23:1 and say: “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”