Pride Again: Remove the Scales

I wrote last week about how the news just keeps coming, and how it’s a beatdown. I can get so discouraged by it. The frenzied outrage over Cecil the lion’s death in contrast to everyday injustices is perplexing, but it reminds me of a story my uncle told me. He was a high school history teacher and found it disturbing that in watching a movie about the Holocaust that the students would visibly and audibly react to Hitler’s dog’s death more than the horrific murder of millions of innocent human beings. The thing is, I think I understand this now. It’s a simple matter of being calloused. We do not often watch movies or play games or read books about dogs or lions being killed. Unfortunately we are all very familiar with the fictional and real destruction of human beings. We cannot go a day without learning about someone being gunned down, without hearing stories of real live children being treated like utter garbage, or babies being savagely pulled apart in the name of “reproductive rights.” We’re calloused. We’ve heard it all before. But a lion being hunted for the fun of it? That’s a whole new concept. Oh yes, Americans can get their judgment on for that.

It makes a certain kind of self-righteous pride rise up in me. C.S. Lewis observed and condemned this tendency. He wrote: “To avoid a man’s society because he is poor or ugly or stupid may be bad; but to avoid it because he is wicked — with the all but inevitable implication that you are less wicked (at least in some respect) is dangerous and disgusting.”

May we not let ourselves foolishly slip into the prideful posture that we could never do that.  Because no matter what side you are coming from, the “I could never do that” stance may have a certain pleasure in it but it is untrue (you let enough darkness in your heart, and it will take over — just read Romans 1).  That kind of judgment also shuts down the dialog, and sharing the love of Christ means being in relationship.  Remember how Jesus associated with the tax collectors (the most hated class of the day), the partiers and the prostitutes?  Personally, I’m not doing a great job  of building relationship with the crowds Jesus made a point of hanging with.  I need to do better.

Praying today that the scales we all have will be removed, that the thick callouses we’ve grown in response to injustice will be sloughed away.  Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”  Mark 8:17-18.  May we be able to answer Him, “I do understand, help me understand more.  My heart has some hard and calloused spots, Lord.  Forgive me.  Smooth them over with Your love and compassion.  Let my eyes see and my ears hear.  May I love with Your love.”

Brandon Heath has a catchy song about this principle.  Perhaps you’ve heard it.  It says, “Give me your eyes for just one second.  Give me your eyes so I can see…”  He sings about the brokenhearted and the forgotten.  But he could sing about abortionists and lion killers, because as unfathomable as some of us may find it, Jesus loves them too.  He’s not going to start loving them when they clean up their act.  He’s loved them all along. He loves them just as much as He loves you and He paid the price for every sin they’ve ever committed.

The older brother in the story of the prodigal son was none too happy about the mercy offered to his brother.  But let us not be like him!  May we instead cherish the mercy offered to us and to every person who’s ever lived.  If we can’t do that, I’m not sure we get to enter the party.  Older brother sulking belies an understanding of one’s own need for forgiveness.  Most of all,  may we pray fervently that the gift of mercy will be accepted, and that the life-changing work of Jesus will be evident throughout our world.

See you in September!



Jackson Five Friday: Pride and NPR’s TED Radio Hour


Are you having a fabulous summer?  I sure hope so.  Mine feels like it is slipping away too fast — even faster than usual.  I feel sad that swim season is wrapping up, and that August is nearly here.  And I don’t even want to hear that horrific little phrase “back to school” and yet I know when the time comes, as unfathomable as it is right now, we will probably be itching for routine and order.

So much has gone on in the world this summer, tragic news stories just keep coming, and the world feels like it’s teetering on the edge.  Division along racial, political and religious lines feels unprecedented, at least for my short life, and it’s a beat down in many ways.  But one of the things that I find most discouraging is the lack of thought and logic of many people who join the conversation.

Freedom of speech is threatened, but it’s almost scarier when those with freedom choose to be lemmings.  Pondering and considering arguments appears to be a lost art — to paraphrase Fletch, “It’s all soundbites these days.”  One of my major goals as a parent is to make sure my sons are capable of deep thought, of entertaining both sides of an argument, and knowing that unless there is absolute truth, all of it is just meaningless jibber jabber.

Have you ever listened to NPR’s TED Radio Hour?  It’s a pretty great concept.  The host is Guy Raz whom I find invariably likable — he has a sort of high pitched, dorky voice (if you’ve seen the children’s movie Rio Raz is the voice twin of “Blue”) and consistently engages with all walks of people in such a casual and yet seemingly authentic way.

Anyway, Raz gives context to and discusses TED talks with the speakers themselves.  The shows are built around a topic, and TED tidbits are strung together.  It reminds me a lot of a topical sermon, but it’s totally secular (obviously).  But even when I find the views to be rather poorly reasoned, I enjoy listening — the discussions are always thought-provoking.

One of the programs was based on the seven deadly sins.  Raz said that it is surprising how consistently the seven deadly sins show up in fictional characters from Friends to SpongeBob.  Even Gilligan’s Island appears to be based on the seven deadly sins — Gilligan (sloth), The Skipper (wrath), Ginger (lust), Mary Ann (envy), Mrs. Powell (gluttony), Mr. Powell (greed), and The Professor (pride).  It’s kind of amazing — it doesn’t seem likely that the characters would fall so neatly and clearly into these categories on accident.

But what is befuddling is that even though the entire podcast is about the seven deadly sins, the Bible is disregarded almost entirely.  It is quoted once during the segment on lust.  In fact, most of the program is a discussion of how the list doesn’t really represent “sins” at all (interestingly there was no positive spin attempted for gluttony — secularism is on board with the Judeo-Christian ethic in wholeheartedly condemning gluttony, at least from a food standpoint.  It would be interesting to really unpack that but it’s not relevant here).

Anyway the arguments of the various TED speakers fell short with regard to both coherence and logic, but what I found most interesting was the firm commitment to the absence of authority.  How can you even attempt to talk about sin without acknowledging at the very least a Natural Law or Higher Being?  The word “sin” cannot even mean anything outside of some transcendent standard.  Implicit in using the word is an acknowledgement of a standard, but then that very standard is avoided by all manner of mental acrobatics.  And what’s more is that the charade is acted out as though it has meaning — layer upon layer of absurdity.

Pride is the ugly and tenacious root of so much — people will do practically anything to avoid admitting that God is God, that we are called to live lives of submission to Him.  A moment’s reflection confirms that the seven deadly sins all have an element of pride.  Guy Raz may attempt to rationalize everything away, but that’s just what pride does.

C.S. Lewis said, “As long as one knows one is proud one is safe from the worst form of pride.”  Do you think you are proud?  I know I am.  I hate to be wrong, and I hate apologizing — two sure signs!

But one of the best ways to combat a problem is to face the problem.  I just had a conversation with one of my sons yesterday about forcing yourself to apologize, and how it gets easier when you do.  Humbling yourself and admitting you were wrong feels like a momentous thing…until you do it.

Living a life surrendered to God is the same way, it feels monumental…until you do it.  Saying “Here is my life, all of it.  I’m not holding anything back” is not scary.  It’s freeing.  There is freedom in surrender.  Jesus himself said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).  But we have to admit we are not ultimately in control.  We need to acknowledge that we are prideful, slothful, envious, greedy, gluttonous, lustful, and even wrathful sometimes.  It’s freeing to pull off the silly little sin-free mask, and admit who you are, and KNOW deep down that you are LOVED anyway.  What Jesus did on the Cross was declare that, notwithstanding NPR, sin is real and that He is LOVE.

I hope you know that justice and mercy met on the Cross — that they are only meaningful words in relation to each other.  My prayer today on this beautiful summer day is that YOU know these things deep down, that in this crazy world where so little seems to make any sense, that your identity and security are in Christ Jesus.

Not sure I’ll be back here till September since I do a social media fast in August (highly recommend), but please know that it means a lot to me that you take time to read my posts.  May the rest of your summer be blessed.  May we each live life and live it abundantly as Jesus intends.