I like Tim Keller a lot. I discovered Tim right around the time he started to become known in the broader evangelical church. He models the type of ministry I was looking for, and he’s had a profound impact on my life and ministry. I’m genuinely appreciative for him. I’ve met him once, and been in the same room with him a bunch of times. I’ve interviewed him, and I know he used to visit this blog.
Genuine appreciation can easily cross the line into something that’s unhealthy. When I checked in to a hotel earlier this year, Tim was right in front of me. When I walked to the elevator, Tim was waiting ahead of me. I could have taken the elevator with him, but I balked. Shy? Insecure? Intimidated? I don’t know. At one level, I understand wanting to give someone like Tim his room. On the other hand, I needed to get to my floor, and I should have just taken the next available ride.
Sometimes we just need to remember that people are just other people, even if they are Tim Keller.
I was thinking of this yesterday as I read Galatians 2. Paul is defending his message and apostleship. Some people accused him of being a second-rate apostle with a secondhand message. Paul talks about his contact with the pillars of the church in Jerusalem, people who were close personal friends and disciples of Jesus. Look at how Paul describes these people:
…from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)… (Galatians 2:6)
Think about that. God doesn’t like Peter, Paul, or Tim Keller any better than he likes me.
Later on in verse 9 he talks about James, Peter, and John, and says they “seemed to be pillars.” Paul is anything but intimidated by them. Their status didn’t mean anything to them. He saw them and himself as God does, and he refused to be intimidated.
Our evangelical subculture (and larger culture as well!) tends to be dazzled by our religious superstars. How thankful we are for the ministries of pastors like John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Tim Keller! And yet me must not venerate them … May the Lord keep us from venerating evangelical superstars, so that our praise and adoration and wonder are directed to God in Christ alone.
I’ll remember that next time I get the chance to go in an elevator with Tim Keller. I’ll probably just ask him, “What floor?” and press the button for him, thinking to myself, “What he is makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality.” Either that or God will find another way to teach me this lesson.