The Drawbacks of Being a Hippo


“Arrogance diminishes wisdom”
Arabian Proverb

When I was very young, my family used to visit a restaurant in San Francisco called The Hippopotamus, or Hippo. It was an amazing place, boasting a large array of hamburgers as well as a lit sparkler in the center of the bun and a whole crew of singing wait staff on your birthday. Awesome, right? Sadly, this restaurant no longer exists. (You can, however, read a bit more about it here: Remembering the Hippo)

As amazing as I thought going to The Hippo was when I was little, being called a hippo is not something I would put on my top ten goals, probably the same can be said of you as well. Why is this? Besides the common Western phobia of fat on the body, is the fact that in spite of cartoons and coloring book pages which suggest otherwise, hippos are really nasty, dangerous, territorial, lazy, gluttonous, and bad-tempered. As much as we might try to deny it, this does actually describe us all from time to time. It’s not anything we should aspire to be of course.

Another “character trait” of hippos I have observed (I am CRAZY over those nature shows) is their tendency toward arrogance. Now, hear me out before you start citing behavioral studies. If you are as big and mean as a hippo, you probably deserve a fairly wide berth. (What’s that joke about the 300 lb gorilla?) A hippo in the wild is large and in charge, no doubt. Not many other animals will tangle with them. Did you ever notice the HUGE mouth on a hippo?!? *CHOMP*

Unfortunately, if we will be brutally honest, many people, Christians at the top of the list a good majority of the time I’m afraid, could be characterized as hippos. Very full of ourselves and our “knowledge” of an un-knowable God and self-important, in spite of our actual status as the sinful, unworthy, ridiculous specks we are. (Don’t get me started on the inane amount of arguing we do among ourselves over silly doctrinal differences, while the world hurts, and suffers, and rages, and weeps all around us.)

Notwithstanding our majesty and wonder as creations of intent and divine purpose, the wonder, majesty, intent, and purpose are not our own. With the limited, imperfect knowledge we have of an infinite, and perfect God, we sure pat ourselves on the back a whole lot. Why is that again? Maybe we are getting a little too big for our britches. Maybe our self-conceit needs to diminish a bit while we remember the reason we celebrate Easter Sunday is NOT so we can parade around like arrogant runway models in our pastel finery. Maybe, while we smile fondly at our amazing offspring as they club one another over the head for eggs, we might pause and reflect.

Jesus Christ came to earth as a squalling infant and grew up in this chaotic place only to die on a cross, horribly; because even in our Easter finery, we are wretched and lost souls in desperate need of sanctification. Pretending we are anything other than that is pointless. My continued walk as a Christian, and yours, depends on the continued realization of our need of Christ, not only for our initial salvation, but for our every day’s grace to think and act like a considerate, loving human beings. A hippo-like, prideful attitude tends to make us believe we are better than other people who are different than us and leads to gossip, exclusivism, cliques, bullying, and so forth; and, yes, I AM still mainly talking to Christians. This type of arrogance has no place in the body (aka the Bride) of Christ.

More than all of these reasons, God himself has warned us repeatedly against such full-of-ourselves attitudes, in His Word. (Proverbs 6:16-19; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 13:10, etc.) One of the most convicting (and by convicting, I mean reminding, encouraging, and exhorting) of these is the passage below:

“On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal (their hidden thoughts). [Eccl. 12:14.]
 But if you bear the name of Jew and rely upon the Law and pride yourselves in God and your relationship to Him,
And know and understand His will and discerningly approve the better things and have a sense of what is vital, because you are instructed by the Law;
And if you are confident that you [yourself] are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, and [that
You are] a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the childish, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–
Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you teach against stealing, do you steal (take what does not really belong to you)?
You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery [are you unchaste in action or in thought]? You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples [do you appropriate to your own use what is consecrated to God, thus robbing the sanctuary and doing sacrilege]?
You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law [by stealthily infringing upon or carelessly neglecting or openly breaking it]?
For, as it is written, The name of God is maligned and blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you! [The words to this effect are from your own Scriptures.] [Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20.]” Romans 2:16-24

Beloved, fellow, imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ, he has so much more in store for us in this life. In order to realize the ultimate goal of his bountiful richness and completeness flowing through us to bless others first, and ourselves as a byproduct, we must take our eyes off of ourselves and put them back on the ultimate prize, which is the fullness and richness and completeness of Christ Jesus himself.

“For God has not called us to impurity but to consecration [to dedicate ourselves to the most thorough purity].
Therefore whoever disregards (sets aside and rejects this) disregards not man but God, Whose [very] Spirit [Whom] He gives to you is holy (chaste, pure).
But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another.
And indeed you already are [extending and displaying your love] to all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we beseech and earnestly exhort you, brethren, that you excel [in this matter] more and more,
To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,
So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12
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