See, that’s when I was confronted by an exacting standard that forced me to—at least try to start—be honest with myself. Up to that point I’d been a bit of a master of self-deception, dodging my own shortcomings with the old publican gambit of Luke 18:11, “I am glad that I am not like other men.” Bell-curve rather than godly character, in other words.
What that really meant was that my wrongdoing just wasn’t necessarily as evident as some other peoples—and not all by reason of virtue. Yes there was a part of me that held to a moral code, but some of what kept me from crossing the line was more the fear of getting caught than true uprightness.
So I contented myself with interior waywardness, rationalizing that just thinking bad things was okay as long as I didn’t actually do them. And then I started reading the Bible and found Jesus saying things like, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). I realized that I needed to buckle down.
Now, of course, I’m not left to try to meet God’s standards in my own strength. Thankfully the Holy Spirit has come to empower and transform me, but I have to be willing to cooperate in the process. And that requires being aware of my old flaws and tendencies.
I was reminded of all that this week by a sermon about Paul’s writing on the armor of God, in Ephesians 6. I was struck by how we’re first admonished to be sure that the belt of truth is securely fastened (verse 14).
A belt has to be cinched fairly tight to work right, otherwise it is just a fashion accessory; there must be an element of pinch. Too loose and you could end up with your pants around your ankles. So, if I’m not aware of a bit of pressure somewhere, maybe I’m not really walking too closely in the truth.
Looking at social media, I can’t help feeling that too many of us who claim to be Christians prefer to take the belt of truth off and use it to whale on others for their sins. We’d rather do that than have it constrain us in our own, simply because they’re less obvious.
I wonder what might happen if we spent more time taking things up a notch in our own lives.
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