Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain are the righteous who give way before the wicked.
- Proverbs 25:26
I normally don’t get involved in polarizing political conversations (and that’s not my intention here), but after the events of this last week, I need to make one small point.
When any controversial topic comes up, it is all too easy to take sides: where one (usually my) side is righteous while the other is wicked. Our disagreements become disconnections that devolve into disdain for dissenting perspectives and persons. It can be easy to assume that all people fall into one of these two categories, and that the job of the righteous (if they wish to remain righteous) is to avoid the wicked.
Things don’t always remain so civil.
In some cases, it becomes the job of the “righteous” to tell the “wicked” exactly why they are wrong. Often, this devolves into nothing more than a shouting match between people who won’t listen to one another. On social media, such “conversations” (if we can call them that) culminate, at best, in the “righteous” simply “unfollowing” the “wicked;” at worst, they produce nasty, and even cruel, comments.
Honestly, I’m two seconds away from disabling my Facebook (again) because I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of seeing my friends pitted against one another.
I’m tired of seeing otherwise patient and kind people unwilling to listen.
I’m tired of seeing people fighting the wrong fight.
Because our battle is not with each other. It’s with ourselves.
We are all so concerned about what other people are doing/saying/believing that we fail to take stock of our own lives and whether or not we are following the Lord as well as we might.
When I am honest with myself, I can see that my own heart is a “muddied spring or a polluted fountain” because, while one moment I may deeply and truly desire to follow the Lord, I may find myself gossiping about my friend not two seconds later. At once, in my heart exists the righteous desire to love God and also the wicked impulse to destroy my neighbor.
An impulse that often seems far more attractive than the hard work of confession and repentance.
It is of this reality that St. Paul writes:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:15-25)
As Christians, each of us lives in the tension between our desire to follow the Lord and our desire to sin. We are Christians who are still learning how to truly be Christians.
We are, each of us, at once both the righteous and the wicked. So what we need is to cultivate not the instinct to judge but instead to ask forgiveness.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading describes an encounter that Christ has with two demonically possessed men. When Christ meets them, the demons ask that they be sent into a nearby herd of pigs, and when Christ permits this, “[the demons] came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters” (Matt. 8:32). Then the people ask Jesus to leave, because who knows what else He’ll do.
This is a hard truth, but I’ll come straight out and say it: in many ways, we are the demoniacs.
Each and every one of us.
And we need healing.
Each of us has something evil within us, something that possesses us and keeps us from truly following and clinging to the Lord. Perhaps we’re gossips, lovers of money, gluttons. Maybe we struggle with good-old-fashioned pride. Whatever it may be, each of us is a muddied spring and polluted fountain, and each of us needs the Lord to cast out the evil in our hearts.
And, thank God, He wants to do this for each of us. Because He loves us.
Because he did not make us for the division, dissolution, and death that sin brings.
It grieves the Lord that we spend so much time pointing out the “wickedness” of others rather than taking the time (or having the courage) to recognize the wickedness that exists in our own hearts. Like the folks in the story, we’d rather ask Jesus to go away than let Him drown our demons.
And for this, we need to repent..
No. I need to repent, and I need to do it now.
And I need your support. We need each other’s prayers. We need to stop fighting. We need to ask forgiveness from Christ, and we need to extend forgiveness to others. And this needs to happen not in spite of our differences, but in the midst of them.
As Christians, we need to stop worrying about who’s right and instead focus on what’s right. And what’s right is our own repentance. We must each turn inward and see our divided hearts, judging only ourselves as “the chief of sinners.” And then we must come before Christ together to ask for His grace.
For in opening ourselves to Christ, we receive the living water, and it is only this water that can purify the muddied spring of every human heart.
Debate: Xpectro via Compfight cc
Pigs: Nicholas Erwin via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on being united by forgiveness, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
For more on Confession, check out this episode of Be the Bee: