8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
Here is an excellent resolution for all--especially me. I'm humbled by the humility of this resolution and the recognition that I possess so little of the humility that prompts such a statement.
I've been in Grand Cayman a month now. And as the new pastor, the month has been filled with updates, reports, planning, and observations... all of which place me in numerous instances of forming and making judgments. How rarely has those judgments been flavored by this kind of "thinking more highly of others than myself."
I'm a vile sinner and by God's grace I know it. Part of my vileness, though, is I'm as proud as the Pharisee who prays "Lord, thank God I'm not as bad as this sinner." My pride makes me happy I'm not as bad as some--which is a lie, of course. This is far from letting the knowledge of their sins promote shame in me for my own sins. What a great discipline and attitude of heart! What a great way to learn to number our days and to consider our frames of dust before God!
I need to embrace this resolution in order not to be a hyper-critical, self-important, my-sin-ignoring, others'-sin-remembering, cross-forgetting, sacrifice-requiring ignoramus of a pastor. I need to embrace this resolution in order to extend the grace, correction, and comfort I've received by God's grace. I need to embrace this resolution so that my love and empathy for others doesn't grow cold as so often happens with my dull heart. And I need to embrace this resolution so that the little pink flesh in my mouth isn't set ablaze by hell and isn't destructive to the Lord's people.
Case in point: a couple of old and new friends challenged my recent post on the situation involving evangelical campus ministries and the chaplaincy at Georgetown University. I'm thankful for their comments. A lawyer friend helped me with the legal issues involved. A Christian brother posed a hypothetical counterfactual to consider. And a once-evangelical, turning-Catholic responder suggested I had unfairly spoken of "Rome," knowing that I would support evangelical institutions doing the same thing.
Honestly, my first reactions were to offer defenses. "I used the reference to 'Rome' tongue-in-cheek, not because I actually thought the Vatican ruled GU." And, quite honestly, I really would not have difficulty with Catholic organizations setting up shop at Bob Jones or Southern. I quite honestly think that religious freedom is so basic a freedom, that freedom to convert is so eternally critical, that a person should be able to follow the dictates of her or his conscience no matter their educational affiliation or country of origin. I favor this freedom for GU and Southern as much as I favor it in Saudi Arabia, for example. I am thrilled that my "once-evangelical" friend who is converting to RC is free to do so, though I'm grieved at the choice.
But, today, I'm reminded by Edwards that my excuses and reasons used as rebuttals are beside the point. I spoke too loosely, and considered the decisions of others more heinous than my own. I did not act as though I had committed the sin. I did not let the knowledge of their actions promote shame in me over my own. And I did not use the opportunity to confess my own sins before God. I need Resolution 8 more than I need this hole in my head called a mouth!
And I need faithful people in my life (and even the blogosphere!) to comment when they think I'm in error. What a gift to a pastor!
This resolution is one I plan on adopting. I think I will be better for it. It will help me to examine my life more frequently and thoroughly than perhaps I am accustomed. And I pray it will work to the benefit of the church and the blog. Won't you pray that with me?