Do you see, Theophilus, how pride can find its way into all manner of churches? And to what does this pride lead but divisions between those who ought to be united and to an ugliness that cannot attract unbelievers to Christ.
Greetings in Jesus’ name! May his grace abound to you through his Spirit to the glory of the Father. As requested, I write to warn of a grave danger facing the church, namely, ungodly pride that leads to an arrogance dishonoring to Christ, detrimental to the unity of his body, and destructive to the mission to declare the gospel to a world that desperately needs it. There is such a thing as godly pride—pride that sees nothing in oneself but all good in Christ, that boasts in the Lord so the humble hear and are glad (Ps. 34:2). Godly pride directs all attention away from self—including the self of the church as body and institution—and directs all attention to our Savior God.
To my shame, Theophilus, I have had far too many an occasion when I personally considered myself better than others, looked down on them, and was marred with the ugliness of pride. Alas, I was like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story of the tax collector and the Pharisee. You know it well, do you not? The Pharisee informs God he is thankful that he is not like others—an extortioner or unjust or an adulterer or like the tax collector standing near him. Instead, he professes strict adherence to the Law. Meanwhile, the tax collector beats his breast, crying to God, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14). The tax collector returns home right with God, not the Pharisee. How often, not only as individual followers of Jesus but as his body, the church, do we behave and think of ourselves as did the Pharisee! How can we think we are right with God when this is so?