This year, my wife and I were in Seattle visiting our son and daughter-in-law when Holy Week began. We attended church with them on Palm Sunday. Their pastor, Eugene Cho, delivered an impassioned sermon with a verbal image (borrowed, I think, from Shane Claiborne) that I won’t soon forget.
Think about the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. (The night before the sermon, we had all gone to see Disney’s Zootopia, so the idea of talking animals with human-like attitudes and behaviors was still fresh.) The crowd was cheering. Everywhere the humble beast of burden went, people laid their cloaks and palm branches before him. It was the first-century version of the red carpet treatment.
Would the donkey think it was all about him? Would he start to strut with pride at all the recognition?
And now imagine: what if we were the donkey?
Our vocation as Christians is to bring Jesus to others. Sometimes, the result will be persecution. But other times, we may be the object of praise and adulation. What will we do with it?
I’m not suggesting that we brush off all compliments. Sometimes, in the name of humility, we can come off as rude by pushing away a sincere word of appreciation given by someone else. At the same time, however, it’s easy to let compliments go to our heads, as if we were meant to be the center of attention.
When I start thinking that way now, I’m going to try to imagine myself as a dancing donkey. That should help put things in perspective. And then maybe I’ll be able to get back to the business of carrying Jesus where he wants to go.