On this first Sunday of Lent, I feel I should write something suitably related. I penciled the title for this post in September last year but wrote no notes as I normally would so I don’t remember what I specific incident I had in mind but I do remember what I generally had in mind.
What I am going to write about here applies as much to me as anyone else as I feel I have been guilty of it from time to time. The basic idea is thinking of the faith strictly in terms of rules and and obligations and as a result seeking loopholes and ways to bend them when they are found inconvenient. The simple everyday example would be something I do when trying to justify one more drink by telling myself that I am not drunk because I have not yet fallen asleep embracing a toilet bowel. The more extreme is the adulterer or hit-man who is sure to go to confession, knowing full well he will return to the habit after being “absolved”.
Now I do include myself in this and I think everyone has been guilty of it in one way or another. One of the easy ways to see the truth in the Garden of Eden is being conscious and honest about your inner-thoughts. If you are, you know you’re a sinner even if you aren’t quite as bad as that guy or quite as good as that other dude.
What I have found myself reminding myself and now writing here is that nothing is hidden from God. God knows exactly what you’re thinking and all your motivations. Think of someone you know that has a really finely-tuned bullshit detector and times that by infinity. That seems to be what you’re dealing with when it comes to God’s knowledge of you. A way you can have a small experience of this in the earthly realm is to converse with someone particularly devout. I know (especially when I was an unrepentant sinner), that I found myself feeling uncomfortable when around the devout. Their goodness made me feel bad, as well I should have. They didn’t even have to say anything.
Among protestants there is the “once saved, always saved” crowd, the more extreme of whom think they are saved no matter what they do as long as they accept Christ. This is partially a result of a crude understanding of the faith but there must be something more malignant in those that genuinely believe this. There are of course many more protestants that find this as absurd as I do. Though there does seem to be some circular reasoning with regards to those that act like this in Calvinism. Notably that if someone does transgress God’s will in such a way, they were never saved to begin with. Which obviously goes round and round with every apostate. If someone wants to tell me I am misunderstanding here, then feel free.
I can’t speak for what motivates each person other than going by what I’ve observed and what I know goes on in my mind but I suspect there are a few things going on in the minds of others. One might be a very dangerous narcissistic belief that the rules don’t apply to them because they are in some way above them or special. I think there is a certain honest (though still dangerous), ignorance among some about how forgiveness and mercy really works and what is required in return.
The other can use a separate paragraph as it can be applied to to what we experience every day. None of what I have written thus far is original in any way and I have consciously borrowed what I am about to write. That is that the law in society is and should be thought of as the minimum standard of behaviour expected. As we all know, it is not against the law to be ungracious, angry, miserly or many other things that are nonetheless not generally thought of in positive terms. The same is so God’s law and it seems to me, that I shouldn’t be looking at what I’m doing right but what I could be doing better.
This is something that was on my mind before Lent and it is certainly on my mind now. I can say that I haven’t committed any mortal sins for quite a while but have I been as thankful as I could be? Have I been too quick to anger? Have I been as diligent as I could be about my various duties and obligations? Have I shown as much charity as I could have? Have I simply wasted a lot of time? Did I stretch the limits of the definition of “small meal” on Saturday? No, yes, no, no, yes and yes. I could keep asking similar questions and if I’m honest, not giving the right answer most of the time. This might sound tiresome but I think this is good. We should all be trying to do better and not just what is expected and this applies even more to God than it does to the world.
May God bless you all this Lenten season!