Care Instructions for a Life Worth Living - Saturday, May 30, 2015
Do You See Me?
I wonder whether, when teachers of the law first signed up as young men to devote themselves to a life of service, they had warm hearts for God and others. Weren’t they in fact motivated by love? But over time something happened. All their learning about Scripture filled them with pride. All their efforts at obedience filled them with disdain for the less devout. All their giftedness filled them with impatience toward those who were weaker. All their spiritual power filled them with contempt for the weak. And they became as enslaved by a cold heart as an addict can become enslaved by crack cocaine.
“Sins of the spirit” have less to do with our biology than with our souls. They have names like pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and judgmentalism. They are generally not as colorful as sins of the flesh. They don’t provoke nearly as much gossip—perhaps because gossip is itself a sin of the spirit. Rarely does a church exercise discipline over one of these sins. If you hear of a pastor having to leave a church for “moral reasons,” you can be pretty sure it’s not pride. Churches in our day are not usually scandalized by sins like arrogance or self-righteousness.
The New Testament tells a striking number of stories that involve the triad of a “sinner of the flesh,” a “sinner of the spirit,” and Jesus. There is the story of the Pharisee and the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, of the Pharisee and the tax collector, of the prodigal son and his older brother, and—yes of the religious leaders versus the woman caught in adultery.
In all these stories, the people guilty of the “sins of the flesh” knew they were in big trouble. They also saw Jesus as a person they could run to. They finally came home.
In all these stories, the people guilty of pride and arrogance were also blind. They thought it was possible to love God and despise people. They actually thought they were paragons of spiritual maturity because they avoided sins of the flesh. They had no idea that their sin crippled their ability to love—which makes sins of the spirit the most dangerous and destructive sins of all.
What is so insidious about the sins of the spirit is that the carriers don’t have a clue. At least with sins of the flesh, you find out you have messed up. With the sins of the spirit, you may not even know. You just walk through life with a stone in your hand:
A superior attitude
Little room for love
People stand around you—trembling in brokenness, guilt, fear, lost-ness—but you’re so caught up in your own self-righteousness you don’t even see them. Or worse yet, you see them and are not moved. You don’t even notice—you’re not in the life-saving business anymore.
Has the time you have walked with the Lord made you more obedient to his command to love God with all your heart... and your neighbor as yourself?