Random Blog Clay Feet: March 12, 2008
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Forced Righteousness

As I was trying to stir up enough energy to get out of bed an hour after I woke up, I continued to mull over my uneasy feelings left over from last weekend. Somehow it still seems so confusing to my heart. I really am trying to be very careful not to judge this group but at the same time the spirit that I sensed was – well, a mixture that really bothers me at my deepest level. They have more joy in worship than I have ever seen but at the same time I felt the behind-the-scenes spirit of control that I am all too familiar with. I am still struggling and praying to know what to do about this in my own thinking and asking God what I am supposed to learn.

As I pondered this for some time I kept praying to see God's face, to have His light dispel the sense of darkness that I still feel after several days.* What is so strange is that it seems like I should not be feeling darkness after seeing such “success” in worship but I cannot deny that my feelings are also resonating with much of my own past experiences. It has reawakened the spirit of fear so familiar in my heart and in a way I am glad it did, because now it is coming out more in the open where God can deal with it and remove it.

As I continued to ponder and pray, for some reason my mind went to wondering about something that seemed at first completely irrelevant. I pondered why it is still so easy for me to lust after pretty women at certain times. Not that it is an overwhelming urge or something that dominates my feelings, but I have long since decided that simply to suppress this and try to ignore it is totally the wrong approach to becoming completely free. I know it is rooted in some kind of very deep lies about how to receive life embedded in my heart that need to be healed, and lust is only the outward symptom revealing that I have not yet been fully healed. But suddenly a realization struck me like lightening and I knew it was straight from the Holy Spirit.

One of the strongest elements in a person's lust for women is the mistaken notion that they can somehow force the woman to love them in some way, to satisfy their deepest cravings for receiving affection. I know that it may not appear on the surface to be that way, but when we get closer to the core feelings that drive these urges it really has very little to do with sex – that is only the means toward an end – but is has a great deal to do with needing to be cherished, to be valued, to feel wanted, appreciated and to feel honored by someone.

Of course, none of that ever flows from all the sexual perversion that results from lust. But logic is not the strong point of lies, these false gods just promise to provide instant pleasure and they refuse to look past that to any long-term consequences. That is the general nature of sin, it substitutes immediate pleasure for long-term satisfaction. But in doing so it leaves one with the very opposite of what their heart really longs for. But why is it still so strong?

The insight that struck me so forcefully was that inherent in the idea of trying to force someone to love me which is what lust always suggests, I am simply acting out the beliefs about God instilled in me since early childhood. I, like millions of other people, have been immersed in the crazy notions and teachings about God that make Him out to be a two-faced, authoritarian parent who on the one hand demands full attention, obedience and love and on the other hand waits with threats and intimidations and harsh punishments for any who fail to produce these things sufficiently. This belief or shades of it have been at the core of most of the motives behind all of the religious teachings and practices that try to use the “carrot and stick” approach to producing “righteousness”. It lies at the base of most all of the self-supporting institutions that I have been in or observed and is the same formula that I saw this last weekend where it has been refined and honed to a well-refined system producing excellent results of outward goodness.

This diabolical lie about God's character is behind the belief that we must use at least a little force to supplement love if we are to produce Christian character in the lives of those around us or under our authority. But when I believe that God uses threats of arbitrary pain or death to get me to love Him it is really no different than the fanciful imaginings of lust to violate a woman sexually in a mistaken subconscious attempt to force her to make me feel better or to give me the love that my heart craves. This horrible belief about God is why Revelation portrays the woman representing false religion as a whore who forces all nations to drink of the wine of her passion.

Counterfeit religion – which is pretty much all religion that I have seen – mixes a certain percentage of fear, intimidation and force (depending on which one you examine) with positive incentives and love to try to come up with just the right formula that will produce the fruit of righteousness. But this notion of religion is just the same as all the myriads of ways seen in the world today where people are trying to allure or force others into engaging in various forms of illicit relationships or sexual activities to satisfy their longings for affection and fulfillment. We have all at least tasted of this wine in some form or another and are in various degrees intoxicated and confused.

I have been learning and sharing for some time now my growing belief that God never employs force and fear to produce righteousness and create loving relationships. Forced righteousness is really an oxymoron. That truth is explicitly taught by the prophet revered by many in my church who have ignored this truth and instead used her writings to prove and justify the exact opposite spirit and practices in their teachings and control over others. Sadly I know that first hand. But far beyond that, with careful and thoughtful study this same truth about God can be seen throughout the Bible if one is willing to take a fresh look and lay aside the preconceived lies about God that contaminate much of our thinking and beliefs. If one is willing and longing to know the truth, Jesus has promised to reveal it to them. But if we are more interested in justifying our own ideas about God or defend our own practices, then it is quite easy to assemble texts and quotations that apparently provide compelling proof of what we want to believe. But in the end it will be found that we are really attempting to create or reshape God into our own image – a very high-risk proposition I would think.

After realizing the stupendous importance of this connection in my heart this morning I felt frustrated and lost as to what to do about it. Just knowing a fact, no matter how enlightening it may be, still does not set my heart and mind free. It must somehow be embedded deep into the place in my heart where the counterfeit lie resides and replace that lie with the light of truth. That cannot take place only at the intellectual level or it will not become a part of my real character. But it is also true that I cannot do that job by myself. I cannot implant truth into the sacred depths of my heart that is so full of fear, pain and lies about God. Only God can access many of those places that have been sealed off for many years from my awareness.

So I asked Him what I should do about this revelation and I waited to hear the response. What I heard was that this was a seed of truth and I do not need to worry about harvesting the fruit of that seed immediately. If I am willing to accept the seed and allow it to be planted in my heart then it will grow and deepen its roots and I will recognize that growth as it becomes more evident. That brought me a sense of peace and I knew that God is in charge of this process. I asked Him to be sure to water this seed with His Spirit as promised in Ezekiel 36:25-32.

I am starting to see how this lie about God permeates so many other areas of belief in my heart and in many others. The notion that force is a legitimate means to produce love under any circumstance is utterly ludicrous and yet is believed almost across the board as revealed in the way we act and treat each other. What brought this sharply to light was something I read just yesterday about people during World War II.

Samuel and Pearl Oliner decided to find out what it was that enabled certain people to be able to stand up and resist the overwhelming pressure to comply with the German state in their increasing campaign to suppress and dehumanize the Jews. What was it that made people willing to stick their necks out and defy the increasingly powerful Nazi regime? So they launched a study to find out what the common denominator was between these various people who were willing to risk everything they had and even their lives to rescue and assist the Jews.

What they found was very surprising and shocked me when I read it. “The Oliners discovered that those courageous people all had something major in common: their parents had not physically punished them. Instead of spanking, their parents talked things out with them, encouraging them to think for themselves.

“Rescuers' parents 'reasoned rather than threatened,' Eva Fogelman wrote in Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. Instead of motivating their kids by fear of punishment, they taught them to think things through and to do the right thing because it was the right thing.

“Social psychologist Martin Hoffman has extensively studied what makes people compassionate. Hoffman found that 'parents who explained rules and used inductive reasoning instead of harsh punishment tend to have children who care for and about others. After all, parents who voluntarily relinquish the use of force in favor of reasoning send their children a message about how the powerful should treat the weak.'” (God Space p. 81)

As one of those raised under the illusion that force and fear were necessary elements to turn me into a loving Christian, I became mentally hard-wired in my thinking along these lines. When I read this statement I felt waves of despair. If this is all I have ever known and even practiced on my own children, then what hope do I have of standing out and being different like those studied above when the pressure is on in life? My only hope of transformation is a radical miracle of God to change the deepest beliefs and instincts of my heart to something completely different than what is right now very familiar to me. My only hope is to trust in the grace of God to do what He claims He can do. I need a new heart, and renewed mind and much more joy capacity.

*(someone told me later today that it is usually on the third day that an emotional experience usually comes to a head)

God, again I see that You have a lot of work to do in my life. But I am the one caught by surprise here, not You. You have just been waiting for me to acknowledge and agree with what You have known all along. Please do Your work in me and accomplish Your desires in my life. Reproduce Your character and loveliness in me. Make me an example of the unbelievable and total transformation that only You can produce in a life so messed up and distorted. I think most of the time I don't even know what real love is and yet I know I desperately want it. You are the only Source that can supply and satisfy my hungry heart and I look to You for more. Show me Your face, please. Let me reflect Your totally selfless love in some way today. Use me to be a channel of grace and the truth about You to others. Thank-you for what You are showing me and for growing me. You are wonderful, You are good, and Your kindness leads me to repentance. I love You as much as my puny capacity can. Increase my love for both You and Your children.