There’s an old joke about three people who died misunderstanding the real path of salvation. For those whose first language isn’t English, I apologize if this doesn’t translate well!
OK, these three men died and found themselves in hell! One was a man who thought that if he only did good deeds then his “good” would outweigh his “bad” and he’d just squeak into heaven. He said, “I’m surprised I’m here. I thought my good deeds would get me in!” Another man though that if he just said the magic words then he’d go to heaven. He said “Wow, I repeated the words I thought would magically make me fit for heaven and now I’m here.” The last man was looking around, whistling and smiling. He was someone who believed that if he just thought positive thoughts then he’d be fine in eternity. The other two asked him “Why are you whistling and smiling? We all ended up in hell!” To which the “happy” man replied “Oh, no. I’m not in hell, and it’s not hot here. If I just keep having a positive confession all these flames will disappear!”
So many people suffer from delusions that keep them spiritually sick. I know I struggle to discover these delusions in my own heart constantly.
There is something tragic and sad about witnessing someone so asleep to their own illness they continue a destructive pattern in their lives. A friend of mine has a child who has grown up gripped by addiction to drugs. Several run ins with the law has now brought the young man face to face with the real possibility of prison. And still, this precious young man is convinced the whole world is against him and he is innocent for all his behavior. Everybody is just out to “get” him according to the blindness of this boy’s heart! Sad and tragic, but imagine the feelings of helplessness and shame and sadness of this boy’s dad!
Everyday I deal with people coming to me in varying degrees of distress and difficulty and invariably one of the main problems they face is their own spiritual blindness. One of the most valuable discoveries I have ever made as a priest in how to minister to these folks who seem to be their own worst enemies is to come to grips with my own spiritual blindness and quickly admit to my own need to deal with my denial and my constant attempt to either affix blame to someone else for my problems or hide from my own responsibility for my problems. Let’s face it, most of us are really good at seeing the other guy’s faults!
In today’s Epistle Lesson the Apostle Paul tells us the tragic story of a way of life that leads to spiritual slavery. In Galatians 4:22-27, Paul tells us about two sons, one son born from a slave woman, and the other son born of the free woman. The son born from the slave is a slave today. His interpretation of the Old Testament story of Sarah and Hagar invites us to look deeply into our own spiritual lives and discover if we really are interested in being a child of freedom in Christ or if we choose to remain a child of spiritual slavery.
Over and over again we read Church Father after Church Father in the theology of the Church encourage us to not only focus on our own sins but actually ignore the sins of others, and allow our own transformed life to be the best response to other’s struggles. St. Paul actually asks the Corinthians, who were taking each other to secular courts over disputes “Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7)
In light of eternity, in light of the Righteous Judge Who sees clearly and is unhindered by the blindness that afflicts all men, why aren’t you willing to be taken advantage of? Why aren’t you confident enough in the Lord to allow yourself to be cheated, knowing all will be put to right?
But the best way to escape this personal blindness that enslaves us is a prayer we pray every Great Lent:
O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
“Grant me to see my own errors…”
Today, you will be hurt by another. Today, you will be taken advantage of. Today, you will be faced with the clear “sight” into what’s wrong with someone else all the while blind to your own darkness. And you will be invited by that pain, that disappointment, that fear, that prideful moment when you demand “justice” to lay aside the delusion of the moment for the light of an eternal perspective.
Please pray for me when that moment comes to me today, that I’ll trust in the ultimate judgement of the Lord and not try to pass judgement myself. And I’ll pray the same for you.