I Must Decrease

I Must Decrease

November 30, 2013
Written by Steven Liechty

Mary Luti

"He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30

If you suspect that the more you love God, the less you will need to assert yourself, to impose yourself, to exhaust yourself with anxiety about what will become of you, John the Baptist is your teacher.

He's your model if you're learning that life was meant to be lived beyond the boundary of you, for the sake of others. He's your man, as someone wise once said, if you've ever wondered, "What would a life be like that is all preparation for Another?" John is your patron saint if you increasingly desire to welcome that Other—the Christ he points to, who, as scripture says, fills the whole universe, yet makes room in it for everything and everyone hitherto excluded.

He is your guide if you want to welcome all whom Christ welcomes, which is another way of talking about justice, another way of talking about praise. He's your mentor if the desire for justice and praise is becoming so great within you that it's as if you yourself are becoming small, decreasing as it increases; as if you have become indistinguishable from its grandeur; as if you have melted into its joy.

John has figured out what his heart desires most, while we mask our lack of clarity with busy, talkative religion. Because he knows who he is, and who he isn't, John can do what we find almost impossible—fall silent, stop imposing, step back, get out of the way, simply point. Simply let Light enlighten and Love love. Simply let the Savior come.

If you want that Light, that Love, and such a Savior, John shows the way: you must decrease.


Holy One, make room in me for you to grow—more and more room, so that as you live more fully in me, I may live more wholly for others. Amen.

About the Author
Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Christian History and Worship at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts.

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