“There is such a thing as ‘the deceitfulness of sin’, and it’s very powerful. You start by allowing yourself the apparent luxury of doing something small which you know you shouldn’t but which you think doesn’t matter. When it becomes a habit, you stop thinking it’s wrong at all. If the question is raised, you are ready with rationalizations: everyone does it, this is the way the world is now, you mustn’t be legalistic, no good being a killjoy. This creates a platform for the next move: here’s something else which a while ago you would have shunned as certainly wrong, but it’s quite like the thing you’ve got used to, so maybe… And before too long you’re rationalizing that as well. And once the mind has been deceived, the habit will continue unchecked.”*
I’ve seen this play out many times in so many lives. Wright has summed it up, spot on. I could not have come close to saying it any better.
N.T. Wright, Hebrews for Everyone. Westminster Press: 2003.
Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England and held the office from 1961 to 1974. Ramsey was engaging many of the issues we are facing today early on. If you read the Wikipedia entry (!) about him and find him a kindred spirit, I recommend ‘Through the Year with Michael Ramsey’ edited by Margaret Duggan. Below are two things he has said.
“God’s purpose is like a stream of goodness flowing out into the world and all its needs. But it is our privilege as God’s children to help this stream of goodness to reach other people, becoming ourselves like channels. Our good actions can be channels of God’s goodness, and so too can our prayers. ….We do not bombard God with our desires; no, we bring our desires into tune with His, so that He, waiting upon our cooperation, and using the channel of our prayers, brings the stream of His good purpose into the parched deserts of human need.”
“Our service in Christ’s name to those who suffer is not something that we do to try to advertise Christianity as a good, useful public show. Our service to people who suffer is just a natural outflowing of our love of God, of our love of others. ….Every Christian congregation should, as a true part of Christian discipleship, be setting itself deliberately to the task of helping and caring for those who suffer.”