Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Paul claims that everyone is a liar. We attempt to convince someone that our sinful behavior is righteous behavior. Why do I think of Spin Doctors? Justification by rationalization? He rebukes those who try to argue that their lies work toward a greater good. I think of Secretary of Defense Gates recently, at a congressional hearing, claiming that “All nations lie. That’s how business gets done.” Was that pragmatism, or a condemnation of our and other nation’s international ethics.
A rallying cry I hear often from the Right Side of our political spectrum, is that the USA is a Christian Nation, founded on Christian Principles by Christian Founding Fathers. If this is the case, why do our elected leaders and business leader, so often appear to play the religion card only for elections, while not using Christian Principles to guide their Conduct and Decisions once in office? Power and Profit appear to be more their gods, than Justice, Peace, and Charity. Some how verse 3:7 sounds like something we might here on the news, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” (New International Version). Maybe, all I have established is that I should not glorify our leaders by using capital letters before prominent words. We do seem to be in an era of lower-case letter mentality.
Back in chapter 2, Paul lets out a thread of argument about the law and sinfulness. Well, really, it’s quite a strong rope, for he will tie this into a noose and let you hang yourself by your own judgments. He winds this rope with three strands: the spirit and letter of the law, sins of commission and omission, and pointing out someone else’s faults while missing our own.
Christ often addressed the first issue when confronting religious leaders about how they would recite various laws, possibly even follow the detailed rules, but have contradicting actions or thoughts in private. The second principle I hear recited in the Episcopal prayer in which the rector calls for forgiveness for “sins of commission and omission”, leaving a poignant silence for the congregation to fill in the blanks. Acting in a sinful way is pretty easy to see. Neglecting to do good is a trickier matter. The first parallels violating the letter of the law. The second may be more related to missing the spirit of the law.
The third aspect of sin, judging other, is a phenomenon that fascinates me. Especially as our society has become more polarized and hostile in our public discourse over the past few decades, casting judgments on other people’s obvious short comings has become the norm. The same speakers also either ignore their own shortcomings or go to elaborate rationalizations about their correct actions, while usually tossing off criticism with platitudes about “I have my faults too”, suggesting that these are minor in comparison. I have also seen this phenomenon many times in my years of counseling*. Often group members are very astute about other’s mistaken attitudes and actions, but cannot see their own obvious errors. This can lead to some advantages as a group facilitator, in that these same folks can often recite many solutions to someone else’s problem. Once I get them going on seeking the answers for someone else, they might see that they too could apply their own advice. But, Paul is arguing that our attempts at acknowledging, correcting, and maintaining righteous behavior are futile without the faith in God. That noose is feeling a little tight.
Until next time, Inspirations Seekers.
* I write of counseling cautiously. Out of respect to the many folks whom I meet in these situations, I speak publicly on in the most general terms, to protect their confidentiality. My stance is that each person in the room, including myself, is a group member, thus I too share my experiences and am as much at risk of short comings as they. Or, as a joke I learned 20+ years ago says, “What’s the difference between staff and patients?… The patients get better and leave….”