Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Deep down in the soul, most of us I believe, from decades of religious instruction, try our very best to please God through our good behaviour, and when we fail in these endeavours, we feel guilty that we have disappointed God and ourselves, and ask for forgiveness. It is a repetitive cycle of guilt and failure, but we determinedly and doggedly hold onto this pattern of trying to please by God by being good (attending church on Sunday, not committing adultery, not being a thief, etc.) Whilst we do this we look down on those who are not trying as hard as us, the ‘sinners’ out there, as though we, the people of God, have the moral high ground. Such behaviour is what the bible calls self-righteous, a perfectly descriptive word. It is our ego trying to become righteous on its own. Self-righteousness will always be self sufficient, judgmental, and superior, whilst at the same appearing spiritual and godly. Jesus called this behaviour that of the religious order of his day – the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Many church members today are no different. Jesus never emphasized the promotion of our good self-image because it can be achieved without really loving God or our neighbour, in fact without even really a true conversion. A good self-image achieved by thinking and believing correctly, is not a true change of heart, which results in real gospel values such as loving enemies, caring for the powerless, overlooking personal offenses, living simply, eschewing riches. God doesn't love us because we are good. God loves us because God is good! Our long standing belief that to be perfect means we have to become a person who pleases God all the time turns out to be false. Read what Jesus said to the carriers of this belief in his time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Rather to be perfect is see your imperfections first, then see them reflected in the imperfections of others; in other words to take the log out your own eye first. When we do this, when we are honest first in the appraisal of ourselves and our need of mercy first, that we are not that good, then we are free to love (even our enemies), forgive, heal, serve and sacrifice. We are right with God through surrender and in participation of his mercy. It has very little, if anything, to do with our good behaviour.