Christians Don’t Strut

Many people who know me know that I was a huge fan of the NBC drama series The West Wing, which aired for 7 seasons (1999-2006). It was a political drama that centered around a fictitious Democratic administration that also managed to integrate the mood and current events of the time. 

In what has to be my favorite episodes, “Shibboleth” in Season 2, one of the stories involves White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (played by late actor John Spencer) and his sister who is up for a recess appointment to the Department of Education. She also is an avowed opponent to prayer in school and isn’t shy about expressing the fact.

While this particular administration is in support of the idea of disallowing prayer in school (they were Democrats after all), McGarry expresses concerns over his sister’s in-your-face advocacy on the subject. The concern heightens when a photo emerges of her having high school students arrested at a football game. The nail in the coffin of her consideration for this appointment comes when McGarry discovers that she had actually hired the photographer to take the photo. McGarry calls her into his office to let her know that her name is being removed from the short list for consideration. 

“We don’t strut,” he tells her.

The phrase in the context of this story needed no interpretation or expounding. Watching the story unfold, it was pretty clear what a mouthful was said in such few words. 

Think about the definition of strut: to walk with a proud gait; parade with a show of pride. When it comes to advocating for a particular position – such as what was happening in the episode – to strut means to lord your position over others in a way that gloats or makes it clear that you have the upper hand. “Strutting” is drawing attention to your victorious stance and the defeat of your opponents. 

It is “flaunting and grandstanding” and, in the end, it is self-focused and self-glorifying.

That phrase has stuck with me all these years, particularly as I consider what it means for Christian disposition and witness.  We do need to be bold in our witness with direct proclamations about his Lordship. We should not be wimps about our testimony of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. 

If I’m reading Scripture correctly, we don’t strut. We don’t use our Christianity as a weapon against others in a vainglorious way that treats us as winners and non-Christians as losers. Strutting is a disposition of the world, not the fruit of a changed heart due to the unmerited favor of God.

Jesus repeatedly let his disciples know they were to have a different disposition than that of the world’s. Their entire MO was to speak from a posture of humility, not pride. In his book God With Us, one of my seminary professors succinctly captures Jesus’ upside down paradigm that doesn’t strut.

When the rest of the disciples hear about the request of James and John, they are indignant, probably because these two tried to gain an inside track in the kingdom. Jesus calls them together to give them the strongest statement about condescension to date.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

The contrast between Gentiles and disciples is clear. Gentiles are concerned about positions and influence, are obsessed with being served, are ambitious about climbing the ladder of success, are interested in making an impact, and desire to change the world. They want to be recognized for their greatness, receive the trappings of power, and be praised and honored by their subjects. Their desire is to accumulate property and people, climb the latter of success, and be famous and important in the eyes of the world. But of his disciples, Jesus says, ‘Not so with you.’ Instead, disciples are servants. They look for opportunities to give, not to take; to serve, not to lord it over others; to be anonymous, not to be famous; to lift others up, not to elevate themselves. In short, they look to be like God, who created the world and turned it over to those created in this image, knowing they would rebel against him. [1]

This same contrast can be seen in Paul’s defense of his ministry in 2 Corinthians against the charges of the so-called super apostles, particularly in chapters 10-11.  Paul spoke with the authority given him as an apostle to the people of God;

For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. (1 Cor. 10:8-9 ESV)

Yes, Paul carried a bold witness but he didn’t strut. He didn’t flaunt his apostolic authority and ministry in the face of others. That’s why these false apostles didn’t think much of Paul.  Because they were judging him according to the world’s standards, they presumed his ministry to be ineffective.

And why should Christians strut? If you bear the name of Christ it is not because you are “all that” but because God drew you to himself and opened your blind eyes to receive the gift of salvation. You did nothing to earn it. We can’t even boast in our intellect, gifts or abilities. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

Saints, let’s be careful to walk as people who have brought nothing to the table yet were handed a banquet. As Matt Smethert recently tweeted, “One sign you’ve encountered God is you walk with a limp, not a strut.” 

 [1] Glenn Kreider, God With Us, 152-153

Lisa Spencer

Lisa holds a ThM degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (2014). She is newly married and recently moved from Dallas, TX to Roanoke, VA where she resides with her husband Evan and attends Christ the King Presbyterian Church. She co-hosts the Family Discussion podcast and also blogs at

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