How do you define greatness? A quick search reveals that most think of it as being better in comparison to others. Your achievements measure it. If you rise above the crowd, then you’re considered great.
But that standard lacks clarity. How many others do you have to be better than? Who judges whether your accomplishment is better? Are you still great if someone else does better than you?
Jesus’ disciples argued about greatness. They were comparing where they stood in relation to one another. It was all about them.
So, Jesus gathered them in a group for a definitive word on greatness. He welcomed a little child into his arms and said,
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”Matthew 18:4
Jesus didn’t point to this child’s accomplishments or acts of service. This child didn’t strut up to say, “Look at how good I am.” Trusting in Jesus’ love, this child simply welcomed Jesus’ warm embrace.
Little children depend on the unconditional love of their parents. They recognize their need, and they know where to turn for help. They don’t worry about the future because they trust they’re in good hands. That’s the humble heart Jesus teaches us to have toward God.
As we mature, we depend less on our parents and tend to rely more on ourselves. As God designed it, this process should help us appreciate our shortcomings and how much we need him. Sadly, some go through this process and simply put more pressure on themselves.
That’s a lot like the path Mormons are traveling.
They look to Jesus as an example to follow. “True greatness… requires a multitude of correct decisions for the everyday choices between good and evil” (Ensign, May 1982). They may try to take comfort in being better than others. They hope that with steady improvement, they can reach their goal. Sadly, because this definition of greatness lacks a clear standard, they’re often unsure of where they stand with God.
By contrast, Biblical Christianity recognizes with humility our hopelessness because of sin. To save us from this pit, Jesus did not merely lower a ladder, but he climbed down and lifted us. Like little children, we are dependent on God and cling to his unconditional love.
There, in the arms of Jesus, we behold true greatness.
Sometimes people believe that Mormonism and Biblical Christianity are similar paths. In reality, they’re very different. The path of Mormonism focuses on you trying to make yourself great, and you’re never sure if you’ll reach that goal. The path of Biblical Christianity focuses on what Jesus has already done for us, so Christians spend their lives pointing to how great God is. Tragically, the result of each path couldn’t be further apart.
As you approach Mormon family and friends, recognize that they’re on a very different and often painful path trying to attain elusive greatness. Help them to see that what God ultimately calls for is the humble faith of a child that cries out, “Jesus, I need you, and I’m lost without you.”
There, in the grace of God, they too can discover true greatness.