Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Judgment rather than tears - symptoms of a self-righteous heart

One thing that Paul Tripp said in the night session of Day 2 really stuck in my brain all night.  Tripp was unpacking Jesus' great self-declaration that He is "the light of the world" (John 9:5) which comes in the midst of an encounter between Jesus' disciples and a man who had been blind since birth.  Right from the outset we should recognise that what are a few words on a page to us "a man blind from birth" are a life sentence for the man in question.  Even living in a society like ours with social welfare and national disability schemes this man would have battled his whole life, so you can imagine what living in first century Palestine was like for him.  And it would have been the little things as well, as Tripp said, "he never would have seen the face of his mother or a stern look from his father."  Reflecting on this man's lot in life should produce in us a deep sadness.

But when the disciples saw this man they had no such sadness... instead they just had a question, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Tripp said that this should shock us because these disciples had hung out with Jesus for some time, they had witnessed first hand His love and compassion that reached out to the broken and the hurting of this world and yet when they see the blind man their thoughts go straight to cause and effect instead of compassion and affection. As I dwelt on this shocking abuse of humanity I realised that it is not limited to the disciples of Jesus that day but so often to the disciples of Jesus today as well.

The problem for the disciples was that they had failed to be moved by the broken condition of this man and had seen him as an opportunity for theological debate; an opportunity to quiz their master rather than an opportunity to imitate their master.  Yet we live in a world where the brokenness of sin is evident everywhere and far too often this brokenness draws us into discussion, dialogue and debate about God rather than a demonstration of God.  We might be refined and politically correct enough not to debate over disability but:

  • When we see the scores of lost people around us instead of reaching out to them with Jesus our first inclination is to debate about election and free will
  • When a neighbour goes through a marriage breakdown instead of offering our hospitality we are immediately drawn into figuring out who was to blame the husband or the wife
  • When we see people living in alternative sexual lifestyles instead of going to them with the gospel of peace we debate about whether or not you can be Christian and gay
  • When we hear of a famous minister who has become embroiled in some scandal we are quick to give our theories as to why they fell and almost secretly rejoice that the tall poppy has fallen rather than praying for their restoration for the sake of the gospel 
  • When we see conflict in Gaza we are sucked into debate about the future of Israel and quibble over eschatological nuances rather than weeping over the tragic loss of life on both sides of the conflict

Now I know that theological debate is important as it helps us clarify the message of the gospel and the practice of the church, but when theological debate is our first response to seeing the brokenness of the world and the suffering of people around us surely something has gone awry.  Tripp pointed straight to the heart of our problem, "Only a self-righteous heart can look at the sheer suffering of a broken man and ask 'whose sin caused this?'"  It is the self-righteous assumption that we in the Christian world have got everything together and are the only possessors of correctness that causes us to preside over the world's sufferings in judgment rather than weep over them with compassion.  

But if we look to the gospel of Jesus Christ there is no room for self-righteousness among the people of the church.  Surely it shows us that without the constant mercy and grace of Jesus we are nothing and hence we have no right to sit in judgment or preside in debates over the broken people of this world because we are part of that brokenness too.  Jesus is not the light of the world so that we might see its brokenness to judge it more clearly... Jesus is the light of the world to open our eyes so that we might see the deep need this world has for Him and run out to it in compassion.

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