By Paul Leavans
John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived before Jesus Christ. That sounds like an absurd statement to a world that evaluates greatness in terms of wealth, power, or fame. Who would say John was greater than Caesar, Alexander the Great, Socrates, or Hammurabi?
Jesus would. Listen to his assessment of John: “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). One of the qualities about John that elicited such high praise from Jesus was his uniqueness. John was one of a kind. He was compared to Elijah, but he was no one’s clone.
John’s birth was unique. His mission was unique. His baptism was unique. His appearance was unique. His diet was unique. Most of all, John’s message was unique “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (Mark 1:7). In this era of athletes who boast of being “the greatest,” it’s unusual to read of one who humbly said he wasn’t worthy to untie the shoes of another person.
John the Baptist teaches us an important lesson: The Christian who would be great by God’s assessment must have the courage to be a nonconformist.
We will not have a great impact for Jesus Christ until we learn to be distinctive people. As Paul urges, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
It’s helpful to have role models, people we look up to and admire. But we make a big mistake if we try to imitate the personality or talents of another.
It’s not much of a compliment when someone says, “He’s trying to preach like Billy Graham. She’s trying to sing like Sandy Patty.” Even to say, “He’s trying to be just like his dad” is not a compliment to an adult son. God made us all originals, and we make the mistake of spending most of our lives trying to be copies.
When I first started preaching, I was impressed with a sermon that Peter Marshall preached about the crucifixion. Marshall truly was a dynamic speaker, so I decided to memorize his sermon and preach it word for word. I couldn’t wait!
Five minutes into the message, however, I looked at the most fidgety congregation I’d ever preached to. The people weren’t paying much attention. It was a long twenty five minutes! When it was over, I realized I was not Peter Marshall. I had to be myself.
Greatness is not determined by how you compare to another. Greatness comes in discovering the gifts God has given to you and using them to the fullest for his glory.
Jesus asked the people about John, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? … A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet … I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:24-28).
Why? He was unique. Any limited-edition item increases in value with rarity. An old baseball card of a star player may sell for hundreds of dollars. An original painting by Vincent van Gogh is worth millions.
You and I are originals made by the Creator of the universe. As Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.”
The value of a unique person – that is a trait we all can share with John the Baptist.
Time to Consider
- Name some items or people that are valuable because they are unique or rare.
- What were six unique aspects of John the Baptist. How were each of these unique? (See Mark 1:2, 3; Matthew 3:1-15; Luke 1:5-25; 3:1-20 for details.)
- What makes you one of a kind?
- How can that uniqueness be used for the kingdom of God?
Dr. Paul Leavens is Minister of the Christian Church in Lindsay, 120 N. Frazier Ave. To contact him, call 559-562-3743 or visit www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.