One Way To Free Yourself From The Surly Bonds Of Common Deceptions
Kind of like a tornado, sometimes different ideas get mixed up and start swirling around together in such a way that makes them dangerous. In the same way that separating the debris from the wind in a tornado would render it much less harmful, if we could separate the component parts of confusion it might go a long way toward helping us to avoid it altogether. In short, we need to be able to discern the facts in confusion in the same way we might discern the whirlwind from the dust and debris. I’ve learned that it’s quite possible to train ourselves to do just this, and if I could help you to do the same, perhaps I can help you to avoid some confusion, or at least to better understand the confusion that you’re sure to be finding yourself immersed in.
The difficulty in getting this across is first and foremost a difficulty of words, for I must attempt to explain it well enough, and with enough examples, to get you started while at the same time not bore you too much. So, in order to attempt that, I’ll simply move right into a few kinds of examples of what I’m talking about. These examples will combine two different elements that seem to get caught up together and become destructive:
Education and morality
I was working with a man recently who told me that his 16-year-old step-son was living alone in another state. So I asked him how the boy was doing without adult oversight? He simply said that he was making good grades. But that didn’t answer my question. He was confusing good grades with doing well. A person can actually be doing very badly in life and still make good grades. You will find that it’s quite common for people to associate good grades with morality. I’ve watched news reports where some young person has done a terrible thing. The responses from those who knew the wayward youth were all too common. If the kid had done well in school, they almost always seemed to appeal to that fact as the cause of their shock. If the kid had been making bad grades all along, then, one would have to suppose, that immoral behavior might well be expected. This, of course, is deception.
You’re living in a culture that idolizes education and as such has a hard time separating its little god of education from morality. So when you’re older, know your children’s heart as much as you are able. Don’t confuse their smartness, or their accumulated knowledge, with their goodness. Remember that really smart people can be really evil. And just as importantly, remember that mental slowness is by no means a sign of a moral handicap. I’m personally thankful for that one.
Another thing that’s similar to education is health. I asked a woman once why she thought her daughter’s fiancé was a good man. It was apparent that the question had caught her off guard. It was as if she had never pondered such a question. After an uneasy pause, she finally said that it was because he was healthy. Health is an idol for many. They approach it like it’s a religion. Their Bible is the internet, and their worlds revolve around natural foods, meditations, and exercise.
Still, some confuse beauty with morality, as well as feelings, as in, if it feels good it must be moral. But our feelings and morality are really two separate things, and when they get caught up together, deception and damage are sure to follow.
Movements and Sinners
As I write this we await what might be the greatest spectacle of hubris ever put on display by Man. Nine judges will decide if a square can be a circle. Of course, that’s not what they’re really deciding, but it might as well be because deciding whether or not a man can marry another man is equally as absurd. Of course, the court’s decision will have no bearing on reality, but rather it will ultimately succeed only in changing the meaning of the word marriage. It will also determine in many ways whether or not we will be a nation that plans on living in reality or a fantasy-land.
But be that as it may, the Church has for some time been in a difficult place concerning such cause-celeb sins of our day, only because so many in its midst have not separated the debris from the wind. As is typical, there are many things that are happening at the same time that must be understood separately if they are to be understood together. For example, here are two things that work together. On the one hand, Jesus clearly taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves. And I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not mean to exclude those who practice a certain sin as being our neighbor. But, on the other hand, there are political movements afoot that are much greater than any one individual, and we must not confuse any single person with a collective political movement, even if some poor soul is part of the movement. Nor should we give the movement a pass for the sake of any one individual. These movements appear to have as their goal the wiping away of all vestiges of God, family, and Church as the Bible defines them, preferring instead to redefine them in ways that are more malleable and palatable to the tastes of our current zeitgeist. The movement approaches the Church cloaked in compassion, and it seems to only be requesting from the Church what Jesus commanded of it anyway. But Jesus also taught that the Church is the light in this world. He never taught us to have compassion for political movements that seek as their end to justify sin. Sadly, many Christians bristle at the suggestion that there should be any resistance to these movements because they are simply unable to differentiate between resisting collective evil and loving an individual caught up in that evil.
The Gospel is not designed for movements. It is designed for individuals and we are to preach the full Gospel, which includes repentance of sins. We are to shine a light into dark places in this world, which we know will cause those who love the darkness to hate us, just as it has hated our Savior. But Jesus tells us that some will repent and become redeemed children. We are to be the very hands of God, pulling individuals from the torrents of collective evil, and not fearing what Man’s movements think of us for daring to call those torrents evil.
Judging and sin
Sin destroys. So, on the one hand, we have your sin, and on the other we have mine. The two are similar in that they both destroy, but they are different in that we are two different human beings. When a loved one calls us out on our sin we have a choice to make. We can feel attacked, and we can make counter-accusations, or we can listen and consider what they say. In choosing the former, however, we cause a destructive whirlwind. If I, your father – or someone who is a friend – points out sin in your life, it is a loving thing for them to do and you ought to see it as such. It is foolish to evade such love by countering their love with an accusing of “judging” you. It matters not that they are not themselves without sin. One person’s sin does not make another’s okay. If anyone wants to discuss the sin in my life, let’s do it. There’s much to discuss. But let’s not discuss my sin at the same time that we discuss theirs.
If we dare not help each other pick the splinters from our eyes we’ll all end up blind, and the best we could ever hope for is to not wander into a pit. Blinded is where much of Christendom lives today, but you don’t have to live there. Thank the brother who loves you enough to hold you accountable. And don’t be afraid to love others enough to hold them accountable. Desire then to live righteously. Ask the one who points your sin out to help you overcome it as you help others in any way you can to overcome theirs.
So here I’ve given you just a few examples of how some things that would otherwise confound can be better understood. I hope that you’ll train yourself to disassemble confusion and then to grasp and interact with their component parts separately. If you work on thinking in this way it will become your second nature, and you will be the wiser for it. I pray that you would grow in this area.