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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holier Than Thou

Jessica Harris is an author and speaker specializing in sexual addiction among women. In an article about women who struggle with porn (Yes, it's not just a guy thing.), she quotes emails from women crying for help. One says, "I want to get help, I want to tell someone, but anyone I tell will never look at me the same again."

Now, I get that. I understand. I sympathize ... or is it empathize? I really do. But what I want to know is how we got here?

The skeptics have long complained that "Christianity is only a crutch." I've never denied it. My Bible says that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death. A crutch? If "spiritually dead and headed for eternal torment" is a "broken leg", Christianity is indeed a crutch. But clearly much more. Because we are all badly broken. The Church is not a collection of holy people; it is a collection of people declared holy. We aren't self-righteous; our only righteousness is imputed by Christ. We aren't reformed; we are being sanctified. "Holier than thou" doesn't fit in a biblical worldview. We are all sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ. A crutch? Oh, no. We are much, much worse than "lame" and it's much, much more than a mere crutch.

So, given that the church is a gathering of broken people without righteousness of their own, predestined by God to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), how is it that if one of us suffers from a condition of sin (as if there is one who does not) he or she can expect to be shunned for mentioning it, for reaching out for some help? How did we get here from there?

It is my suspicion that there is not a single genuine Christian out there that does not struggle with sin. No, I'll go one step further. If there is a self-identified Christian that does no struggle with sin, I would fell the need to urge him or her to reconsider whether or not they really know Jesus. James says, "We all stumble in many ways." (James 3:2) This is why we are commanded to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), to restore those caught in transgression (Gal 6:1).

Absolutely essential to supporting others is humility. Paul said in the midst of this "restore him" and "bear one another's burdens", "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." (Gal 6:1) We're not better than one another. "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Gal 6:3) So Jesus said, "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt 7:5) I notice that Jesus did not say, "If there is a log in your own eye ...", but appears to indicate that it is there and you need to deal with it. That is, anyone wishing to bear the burden of another ought to already be in a burden-bearing position, in a position where others are helping to bear his or her burdens.

Absolutely essential to supporting others is love. Actually, Paul says that bearing one another's burdens is fulfilling "the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). What is the law of Christ? "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." (John 13:34) Paul had already laid this out to the Galatians.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal 5:13-14)
We are to bear one another's burdens, then, specifically on the basis of love. The goal is not to make an bad person good. The aim is to gain your brother (Matt 18:15). It is genuine concern for a brother or sister in Christ. After all, aren't we defined by love for one another (John 13:35)?

We are told to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Rom 12:15) I rejoice with those who have managed to find fellow believers that bear their burdens. I weep with those who cannot. And I wonder, given the fundamental nature of Christianity -- that we're all sinners saved by God's grace with a righteousness not our own and commanded to love one another and bear one another's burdens -- how it is that Christians find it more likely to be afraid to share their burdens with fellow Christians than to feel able to seek help. It seems like there is a sharp disconnect between what we are -- sinners saved by grace intended to love each other -- and what we think we are -- too good to have "those" kinds of problems.

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