“[Jesus] has a lot to say about self-righteousness, which he compares, not very tactfully, to a grave that looks neat and well cared for up top but is heaving with ‘corruption’ down below. Maggots, basically. And the point of this repulsive image is not just that the inside and outside of a self-righteous person don’t match, that there’s a hypocritical contradiction between the claim to virtue and the actual content of a human personality: it’s also that, for him, being sure you’re righteous, standing on your own dignity as a virtuous person, comes precious close to being dead. If you won’t hear the bad news about yourself, you can’t know yourself. You condemn yourself to the maintenance of an exhausting illusion, a false front to your self which keeps out doubt and with it hope, change, nourishment, breath, life. If you won’t hear the bad news, you can’t begin to hear the good news about yourself either. And you’ll do harm. You’ll be pumped up with the false confidence of virtue, and you’ll think it gives you a license, and a large share of all the cruelties in the world will follow, for evil done knowingly is rather rare compared to the evil done by people who’re sure that they themselves are good, and that evil is hatefully concentrated in some other person; some other person who makes your flesh creep because they have become exactly as unbearable, as creepy, as disgusting, as you fear the mess would be beneath your own mask of virtue, if you ever dared to look at it,”

—Francis Spufford, from his recent book,Unapologetic.


One Response to “Self-righteousness”

  1. XAU Says:

    From Walk the Tightrope
    One of the defining moments in the Bible is in Matthew 22:34-40
    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Jesus is very, very clever in his response. Not only does he avoid falling into the trap of the Pharisees question but he SUPERSEDES the question.
    We all know the Ten Commandments and churches and Christians everywhere still try to live by them.There are 603 additional rules in the old testament. If I had that many rules to follow I’d be trying to rank them too. So are we supposed to live by all these rules? In one beautiful moment, Jesus supersedes all these rules with two simple principles. Love God. Love others. Does this mean the law is gone completely? No, not really. but if I live by these principles, I fulfill the law. So to rephrase that, the law still exists but in a new form: it’s not black and white law anymore.This is a wonderful thing. LOVE is a principle. Living by a principle of love states no specific action (such as ‘do not murder’) – instead I have guidelines. BUT to someone living by strict rules and regulations, the person who lives by principles of love seems a bit wishy-washy, free-spirited, unclear – and so on. It’s why you hear the “you’re diluting the Bible” comment. It’s why you hear people say “but it says so in black and white in the Bible – how can you disagree?”. It’s why traditional societies like strict Islamic cultures find the West “loose”. But are we really “loose”? Is superseding law doing way with structure that we need? I’d say that living under principles not law is actually more effort. I have to think more. I have to take life on a “case by case” basis. I have to think from the other person’s point of view. And all this out of actively loving the other person, not merely following a rule that I was told to follow. This requires maturity!!! And that’s the kind of maturity that God wants to see grow in us. Part of this maturity is my freedom to interpret the Bible in a way that says “if the way I interpret this scripture is causing pain and hurt to someone else and it doesn’t stack up to Jesus’ principles, I need to reassess”. Some people talk about “reading the Bible through the lens of Christ”. Personally I like this approach and it gives the Bible remarkable consistency.
    So – now down to the specific scriptures about homosexuality:
    Is there only one way to interpret each one of them? no
    Should I read, research and think for myself? yes
    Is it ok for people to have different opinions? yes
    Are ALL OF US required by Christ to interpret them in a way that loves an LGBTI person as ourselves? yes
    If I move to a position that elevates principles and supersedes law is that a sign of weak theology? NO WAY!

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