I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but, recently, in our country and around the world, there is a push for what has been called “cancel culture.” Don’t you just love how the media labels things? Anyways, this whole cancel culture thing is really kind of scary and utterly ridiculous. It’s honestly like watching a bunch of 6-year-old children on the playground arguing.
“You’re not playing the game right.”
“Nuh-uh, you’re not playing the game right.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you!”
“I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore.”
“Nuh-uh, I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore!”
I mean, really, isn’t this was it mostly sounds like? What a bunch of weak people we’ve become. We can no longer have a disagreement with each other without trying to completely humiliate and destroy one another and we act like, if we can just pretend like it never happened, all the bad things people do will just go away. It’s silly. This goes for all ends of the political spectrum. But, sadly, we see this in our own lives, don’t we? I mean, if we’re being honest with ourselves. I heard a priest preach a homily about something like this recently and it got me thinking and digging into Holy Scripture.
I think I have a solution to this whole problem. Let’s cancel ourselves.
Seriously, let’s cancel ourselves. Before you get all triggered, let me explain what I mean. As a race (the human race), we have gotten really full of ourselves. Our hubris is at an all time high, I feel like. I could be wrong. Humans have been pretty full of themselves for a long time. Maybe I’m just seeing it more because I’m paying attention or because this is the era of history in which I currently live.
We could use a strong dose of humility in our world today. But let’s not be too quick to just say, “Oh the world is so sick, and those people are so whatever.” In truth, it’s not just the world that is suffering from pride or the people you disagree with or don’t like. It’s us too. We could use a strong dose of humility in our own hearts as well. We could certainly use a big slice of humble pie in the Church today.
I dare say that, if the world is ever to value humility, the Church must illustrate it and live it first. Sadly, even in the Church today and indeed in our own hearts, self reigns. I mean, if we’re being honest. Unless I’m the only one…
If we truly understood who we really are and would spend more time praying and confessing our own sins, we’d have a lot less time to be prideful. I want us to consider a text on this one. St. Paul, who was perhaps the greatest missionary and theological mind that has ever lived, knew a thing or two about pride. And, he knew how poisonous it is to life in the Spirit. Consider that he called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So, in light of our discussion about pride, let’s consider part of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church.
We find, in Colossians 3:1-17 the following,
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
St. Paul starts off by saying if then you were raised with Christ; this is important. If you’ve not been raised with Christ or don’t know what I’m talking about, I urge you to go and find the nearest priest or pastor and ask them what it means to be in Christ. He tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. I want to be clear here. St. Paul is not talking about stuff. There is nothing wrong with stuff, per se. The problem is that our minds and hearts get attached to the stuff of this world and we lose our eternal perspective. You and I will live forever, body and soul. The only question is, will we live forever under the blessed gaze of our Lord Jesus in His presence or will we live forever in Hell. This stuff that you’re so attached to now and that attracts so much of your attention will one day be gone. But you will live forever. Choose wisely.
Then he tells us why. He tells us that we are dead. If you are in Christ, the old man is literally dead and your life, my life is hidden in Christ. If nothing else will kill pride (well, should kill pride), meditate on that fact. The only reason you and I have life is because of Christ. The truth about who we are apart from Christ should keep us humble. But who we are in Christ kills self. The only confidence we can have is in the grace of God given to us in our Lord Jesus.
Verse 5, St. Paul says it flat out, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth.” That is aggressive. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we suffer from pride is because we want to. We don’t want to put our flesh and our desires to death. We are quite comfortable with ourselves.
Therein lies the problem.
We would rather have our own idea of comfort here than put ourselves to death in order to live in and with Christ.
Brothers and sisters, we will not progress in our spiritual lives unless we cancel ourselves. Unless we put to death our own selfishness and pride, Christ cannot reign in our hearts. Put on tender mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love. Let the peace of God rule in our hearts and the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Give glory to God alone for who He is making you in Christ Jesus!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
It’s funny to me how things happen sometimes. Maybe funny isn’t the right word. Ironic is a better word. It’s ironic to me how things happen sometimes. I asked for suggestions on what to write about and two people suggested I write about things revolving around sin.
Here’s where irony comes in.
I’m doing an in-depth study right now through the gospel of Luke, while listening to a podcast, clearly a Sunday School type class, of an Orthodox priest teaching through the same. It’s been really good so far.
So yesterday, two people suggest I write about sin and this morning, the text covered was Luke 7:36-50. Take some time before continuing to read this text, ‘cause I’m not going to quote the whole thing. So, after going through this text this morning, I was struck by a couple of things. I was struck by the fact that I am much less like the woman and much more like the Pharisee in this story. And I was struck by the tender love and mercy of our Lord.
Let me explain.
Simon, our Pharisee in this story, is hosting Jesus for dinner. A word about Pharisees before we proceed, since we see them featured so prominently in the gospels. I don’t think the Pharisees were evil dudes. Granted, the murder of our Lord was at the hand of the Romans at the behest of the Pharisees and others in the ruling religious elite of Israel at the time. Having said that, I still don’t think the Pharisees were all evil dudes. They were, in the best way they knew how at the time, genuinely trying to serve God and obey His commands.
Yes of course they made up more rules than the Torah did and of course they missed the boat when it came to Jesus. But they weren’t just being mean. They were actually trying to follow God’s commands. Granted, they went a little overboard but they were trying, which is more than can be said for most of the Gentiles at the time.
Where things went sideways with the Pharisees, especially this one in this text, is that they began to believe that, because they were so good at keeping the rules, they didn’t need a Saviour. Why would they need some dirt poor peasant from Nazareth preaching to them when they had it all figured out? I mean, they were really good at following the rules.
The problem was is that their legalism had led them to pride. At least, it certainly did for Simon in this text. See, he didn’t invite Jesus over for dinner because he wanted to sit at His feet and learn and worship. He invited Jesus over because he wanted to find a way to discredit Him. Simon was motivated by pride.
Contrast that with this woman. We are never given her name. All we know is that Luke says she was a “woman of the city, who was a sinner.” A pretty vague description, don’t you think? But here’s what we do know about her. She stood behind Jesus’ feet. She wouldn’t even look Him in the eyes, probably never even looked up. Instead, she groveled at the feet of Jesus. She wept. In fact, she wept so much that she soaked Jesus’ feet. In fact, she washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Her hair, ya’ll. Then she kissed his feet and anointed Him with fragrant ointment.
Ever wonder how awkward this encounter was for everyone in the room? I mean, don’t you think it got awfully quiet while this was going on?
Notice Simon’s pride. He thinks to himself, “If this dude were really who everyone says he is…and who he says he is, he would know who this woman is and wouldn’t be hanging around with her.”
Here’s more irony. Jesus reads Simon’s mind. Look at the text. Verse 39 says he thought it. It’s ironic that, when Jesus then speaks to Simon about what Simon is thinking about, Simon doesn’t even seem to realize that Jesus just read his mind. Ironic, isn’t it?
But here is where we see the tender mercy of Jesus, even for this arrogant legalist. Jesus calls him by name. He says, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He doesn’t berate him, even though He has read his mind and knows his arrogance. He doesn’t even call him a white-washed tomb or anything like that. He calls him by his name and tells him a story to point out to him where his own faith has fallen short. How tender and merciful our Lord is, even to those of us who are arrogant. See, Simon had a lot of knowledge about God. He knew the Torah and was faithful to follow it. But, Simon needed to learn something else.
Knowledge doesn’t trump humility.
Then, Jesus turns to the woman and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Oh, how tender our Lord is!
So, let me ask you…
Are you more like Simon or the woman? I have to admit that I am far too often like Simon. I pray (twice) daily and read the Scriptures. I go to Mass (when we’re not quarantined). I follow the rules (mostly) and I have a lot of theological knowledge. But, can I just confess something?
I don’t remember the last time I wept over my sins.
The grace of our Lord extends to all, even those of us whom have not recently (or ever) wept over our sins. The grace of God extends even to Simon and all the other legalists out there.
Would you join me in praying that the Spirit would break our hearts for our sins? Would you join me in falling at the feet of Jesus and, by His mercy, hearing those wonderful words:
“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Maybe what we need is a lot more humility and a lot less hubris.