Thursday, March 17, 2016

Doing Good Can Be The Enemy Of Being Good

Is it possible that being moral can be just as bad as being immoral from a spiritual perspective? Wow, let that question simmer for a moment. Can it be that the “moral majority” at the tea party on the Right is no better than the Left who tolerate all forms of immorality . . . except of course being morally conservative ?
Paul wrote to the Galatians, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6) To us that may have less impact because we do not wrestle with the issue of circumcision today. If we were to contextualize it and say, "For neither morality nor immorality means anything but faith working itself out in love," we would better understand what Paul was saying. Doing good is not the same as being good. Listen, circumcision is not a bad thing but a good thing in the Bible. But it is also a meaningless thing in and of itself. Love, and only love is the one thing that fulfills everything.
In our Christian culture today, sexual sin is at the top of the list of capital offenses. That, however, is not the way the New Testament views spirituality. Acting morally superior to those who are sexually immoral is, in fact, treated more harshly in the New Testament. Why? Here are five reasons: it is deluded, harmful to many more people, far removed from love, is a counterfeit to the true gospel, and is difficult to recognize as sin. We need to treat self-righteousness with more harshness than sexual immorality, if we want to resemble a New Testament spiritual climate. And self-righteousness abounds in churchianity today, almost as much as our judgmental cruelty against sexual brokeness.
I have found that self-righteousness is as forgivable as any other sin, it just isn’t as recognizable as other sins. To many it looks “good” and, therefore, is acceptable.
Doing good can be the enemy of being good. When someone is convinced that they are good because of all the good work they do, then they are deceived into believing that they do not need help. This is why Paul and Jesus address self-righteous leaders so harshly and those broken and entrapped in sexual immorality with such grace. We tend to do the opposite, don't we. 
Those who think they are good need a slap in the face to wake them up. A gentle nudge is not enough, so Jesus slapped the Pharisees silly with sarcasm, insults and harsh rebukes. He called them "hypocrites" sixteen times in the Gospels. Why? Because he loved them and wanted them to realize that they also needed grace to find salvation. 
Paul wrote nice words to the Corinthians and said nothing at all nice to the Galatians for the same reason. The Corinthians were tolerating immorality of such a kind that even the pagans blushed. They were divided and had celebrity preachers that they followed. They turned the communion into a party and got drunk on the wine. But Paul called them "saints" (holy ones) eleven times. The Galatians were striving to do everything right, by the book without compromise and at great cost. They were moral in every way. Paul had no kind words for them. This is the only letter that he did not use the word "saint" when addressing the church. Instead he called them: "cursed," "bewitched," "foolish," canibalistic and "separated from Christ." He went so far as to say that if they thought cutting off a little foreskin on the tip of the organ made them more spiritual than others, then they should go the extra mile and cut the whole thing off and be really spiritual. Yes, he did say that. 
He was trying to awaken minds that had been deceived. He knew this, because he had been one of those Pharisees that Jesus had to slap around before he would come to the light himself. And that was his love and concern for the Galatians.
Thinking you are good when you are just self-righteous is a delusion that we must wake up from. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves." (Galatians 6:3) 
Being deceived is a tough problem. If you knew you were deceived then you wouldn't be deceived. the problem is you are unaware of your real problem. If you knew your zipper was open, you would zip it up, but you are unaware of the problem even though everyone else may see it.
A deluded mind cannot think its way out of the box it is in. The deluded mind is the problem, so it cannot fix the problem. The only way to love such a person is to wake them up with a slap in the face. 
This post is adapted from my book One Thing: A Revolution to Change the World with Love


Anonymous said...

Great stuff Neil! I can't wait for my copy of this book to arrive.

Neil Cole said...

Thanks Ted! Hope you like it.

David said...

Hi Neil,
Love that post. Well put.