holy or just a jerk?

Posted: February 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

The first time I can remember getting “called on the carpet” for my writing was before I had a webpage to put my blogs up for all the world to see – before I or anyone I knew had heard the word “blog.”  I had created an email list, not by asking if people wanted to hear from me, but by grabbing any email address I could, making a decision on my own about whether the person was likely to be receptive, and then adding them with no permission and no warning.  I had built a list of around 100 people, and more days than not I would get up early to hammer something out and send before most people were awake.  People tolerated me very kindly, either saying nice things or, more often, not saying anything at all.

This time, though, I’d been on a streak of rants about spiritual deadness in the church; eventually a pastor friend of mine pushed back, challenging my assumptions and my lone-prophet-in-the-desert stance, ever-so-gently poking at my fairly inflated arrogance.  I’m not sure I’d have been receptive to such a challenge from almost anyone else on this subject, but my pastor friend had done the work and put in the time with me – he was (and is) someone who could say any hard thing to me and I’d tamp down (most of) the protest springing up in me and force myself to listen and learn.  My pastor friend gave me a good gift in that push back; it was the beginning of my effort to look harder at myself and moderate my tone regarding others.

That is work that I think will go on as long as I’m breathing – it is human nature to want to judge others while being all mercy and grace with self.  Switching it around to rigorous self-examination and a high standard of accountability for ME with an abundance of circumspect grace offered to OTHERS is counter-intuitive and is, for me at least, a constant battle.  Everything in me fights to go back to the “holier than thou” default:  I am right (and righteous!) and others are screw-ups.  If I let my guard down even a little bit, I go creeping back in that direction immediately.  It’s not a day-to-day battle, but literally moment-to-moment.  Sometimes I do better for some sustained period of time, which causes me to relax, which leads me to drifting promptly back in the wrong direction.  When this happens,  I try to catch myself and stop, acknowledge my transgression aloud, and apologize.  That is never not humbling and somewhat mortifying, but failure to do so would let me hide the ugly from myself and others, and that’s not the general direction of healing and growth, y’know?

This is slippery ground to navigate.  There is scripture that points out that the world will hate us if we follow hard after Jesus.  It’s easy, then, when we’re clashing with the culture, to make hostility from those who don’t believe some kind of badge of victory – a sign we’re getting it right.  That we are just too holy for them.  For ME, when I’m tempted to lean that direction, it’s important to look closer.

If “the world” is going to hate me for my faith, it had better be because I’m standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, not trying to force my belief system on those who don’t believe.  It had better be because I’m giving to those who can’t provide for themselves, not blaming and shaming them for their inability.  It had better be because I offer mercy and grace to those who are easy to shun, not creating mechanisms to isolate them further.  It had better be because I’m doing the right thing and not calculating my own cost as a factor in whether to do so.  It had better be because my first priority is the rights of others, not my own rights.

If “the world” is going to hate me for my faith, it had better be about my love, not my selfish agenda.

That’s all a really great bunch of concepts, but even there, the execution can end up looking like that lonely-prophet-in-the-desert business if I’m not careful – if I don’t tend to that “humble myself” business, not day-to-day, but moment-to-moment.  It’s a fine line, and I creep over it more than I care to admit, either to you or to myself.

All of which makes the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ look more scandalous than ever.






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