June 23, 1999
How we see ourselves may be self-deception
By JOHN ANDERSON www.cryministry.com
[God said]"The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land if full of bloodshed and the city full of injustice. [The people said] ëThe Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.'" (Ez 9:9)
In his compelling play The Visit [which was later made into a classic film], Friedrich Duerrenmatt paints a vivid picture of the process whereby otherwise honest human beings rationalize themselves into deep hypocrisy and moral slumber. In the story, a small European town goes bankrupt, and the only person who can save the community is a very wealthy woman who once lived there. She is soon to return for a visit, and when she does, she agrees to restore the town's economic base. But there is a price: she wants the life of the town's foremost citizen. It seems that he got her pregnant when she was a girl, and deserted her.
At first the entire town is disgusted by the rich woman's proposal, but as the story continues, the various segments of the community ñ the justice system, the educational system, the business community, the town council, the church, and eventually the man's own family ñ each one caves in. Each group somehow finds a way to rationalize away the value of one man's life in exchange for the common good.
There is no happy ending to Duerrenmatt's story. The man is murdered, the town is restored, outrage is replaced by moral indifference, and hypocrisy prevails.
A question must be asked: How far down such a path of rationalization and moral indifference has America come?
Judging by our insensibility toward our 38 million-plus abortions ñ with no end in sight ñ quite a ways. Or the growing acceptance of physician-assisted suicide. Or the yawn we have given to the hundreds of innocent people we slaughtered in Kosovo with our bombs ñ grievously, we have excused these killings as "collateral damage" ñ after all it was for the common good!
The massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton did jolt us for a moment; but we've moved on and are now once more settled back, relaxed again with our high Dow Jones and low unemployment. Most of our outrage for the massacre has, and is, being vented at the guns, not at our violent hearts. We want gun-control, not self-control; gun registration, not heart repentance.
Rationalizing evil of course involves purposefully believing lies ñ it is willful self-deception. We wanted to kill our unborn, so we readily developed a whole list of pretenses to legitimize it in our own crooked thinking.
However such self-delusion leaves us enormously and dangerously blind to our true condition and we arrive at the place where there is a massive gap in the way we see ourselves and the way God sees us.
Such an attitude has marked judgment-bound societies.
Two that Jesus brings up are Noah's day and Lot's day. As we know, both societies sinned wantonly and both perished under God's judgment. Yet right up until their judgments came they remained self-deluded and indifferent, "eating, drinking, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage" (see Luke 17:26-30).
There are other examples are in Scripture describing the gulf between how judgment-bound people can view themselves and how God does. Here are severalñ
From Psalm 94:
God's view: "They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless."
The people's indifference: "The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed..."
From Jeremiah 5:
God's view: The nation had sinned and faced judgment.
The people's indifference: "They have lied about the Lord; they said, ëHe will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind.'"
From Ezekiel 8 & 9:
God's view: The elders were secret idolaters; and the nation's sin was "exceedingly great" with bloodshed and injustice rampant.
The people's indifference: "The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land... the Lord does not see."
From Zephaniah 1:
God's view: Judgment is coming. God will "search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent..." (v12)
The people's indifference: "The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad."
From Micah 2 & 3:
God's view: "Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money."
The people's indifference: "Disgrace will not overtake us... they lean upon the Lord and say, ëIs not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.'"
From Amos 6:1 & 6:
God's view: "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria... You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror... you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph."
The people's indifference: Summed up in God's view.
From Revelation 3:15-17ñabout Laodicea:
God's view: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one of the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
The people's indifference: "You say, ëI am rich, I have acquired wealth, and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
To say the least, when we are living in sin, to have a false view of how we are before God is perilous.
Lying to ourselves is an utmost folly.
Amidst such an attitude, preaching repentance is critical. But repentance is only possible when we say the same thing God says about our sin.
It is here our pulpits are pivotal: They need to strip away our facades and self-delusions with the Word of God, allowing it to penetrate our indifferent hearts and expose the truth of how we are before God and our need to cry to Him in repentance.
Unless we in the pulpit do this, our nation will perish.
And we will have been willing accomplices to its downfall.
Let us pray together: Our Father, you are a beautiful Father, and we rejoice in your love and grace toward us. However we as a nation have sinned against you. We have done so in such ways as killing millions of our unborn, polluting our land with their blood. And in many other ways we have become a nation of violence. And immorality. But in our good times we have become at ease in our sin, indifferent to our true condition, believing the secular lies that imply we are fine. May we repent. May our pulpits proclaim your Word deeply and with unction to bare our true condition before you, and may our response be heartfelt repentance.
John Anderson has been in ministry over 34 years, including 24
serving three churches. Since 1988 he and his wife, Esther, have been
in traveling ministry across the world. Recently they have based their CRY
OF THE INNOCENTS MINISTRY near Washington, D.C. John is editor
of The Pastor's Alert, a publication of The
Alliance for Revival and Reformation. He is author of two
books, CRY OF THE INNOCENTS and THE CRY OF
COMPASSION. He and his wife travel extensively in speaking
engagements; and is one of those available from The Alliance
for such engagements. You can reach him via e-mail at CryMinJohn@aol.com.