Friday, June 20, 2008

Though We Never Would Steal or Murder

Many people seem to think it possible to sin without actually being a sinner. The person who bluntly states, "I've never done anything wrong" is the exception--and even most of those will break down under cross-examination. But ask the average citizen on the street, "Are you a good person?" and odds are the answer will be "yes"--meaning, "I've never murdered anyone, stolen anything valuable, or disappointed anyone without good cause." Reserving the right to define "valuable" and "good cause" for oneself, of course. Many a self-proclaimed good person has used the company account for personal leisure, or tossed aside "till death do us part" marriage vows, or kept an accidental extra $5 given as change, without feeling a hint of guilt.

People like to think of themselves, and perhaps the larger part of humanity, as deserving only good things. More than one in four Americans disbelieve in hell, and many of the others consider it a place reserved for the most blatantly evil--definitely not for honest, hardworking, good-to-their-families types who haven't done anything worse than to consider God beneath their attention. Which is akin to saying God isn't really important, and the good-versus-bad sum of human deeds is all that ultimately counts.

Before we as Christians get smug about knowing better, let's ask ourselves: how many times have our actions professed exactly the same thing? Every time we snub a "worse" sinner than ourselves, or object to any but "respectable" people entering our churches, or get nasty at a call for reform without even giving it a hearing--we are in effect saying, "We are too good to admit we are still fallible or to associate with people who obviously are." If we consider it Christian to "keep ourselves from being polluted by contact with the world," we might remember that the Christ Who supposedly set the ideal example was derisively called a "friend of sinners" because He didn't object to hanging out with the "disrespectable" crowd--and that it was the respectable and religious people who most wanted to get rid of Him permanently.

We may be justfiably angry to see atheist books proclaiming "Religion Poisons Everything" from bestseller lists. But are we handing ammunition to the enemy by allowing pride and self-righteousness to poison our religion?

Though we never would steal or murder,
Nor be tempted to outright crime,
Yet we fail to see hardening of our hearts
Coming subtly in course of time.

It is not sins obscene and blatant,
Where forgiveness is quickly sought,
That so often leads on a gradual slope
Far away from the Path Christ taught:

It is pride in our sense of "goodness,"
And the love of a life of ease,
That will make our love for the Lord grow cold
Till we do only as we please.

Though Christ died for the open sinners,
Those who showed the most obvious taints,
It was not such kind who called for His blood
So much as the self-righteous "saints"!

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