May this blog be a blessing to you as you seek to understand the why's behind addiction and where to go from here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Falling Off the Opposite Side of the Horse

When we fall in our areas of addiction, it's easy for us to say, "I fell off the wagon" and many will say, "get back on your horse, man." It's easy to see how we've fallen when we go in that direction; but what about when we act in the opposite and equally wrong manner toward sin? The answer is that there are two sides of a horse to fall off of.

On the one side of the horse is licentiousness, where we have questioned God's ways ("Has God really said...?"). It's easy to see that we fall when we question God's word, His ways, and eat of the forbidden fruit. When we commit idolatry, refuse to worship, conceitedly use God's authority and name, dishonor our elders, hate or murder, lust or adulterate ourselves, steal, bear false witness, or act out because we are discontent with what God has given us, we are breaking God's original 10 commandments. There are many offshoots of what it means to honor God and falling short thereof, but the most important of all is the acceptance (or, in sin, rejection) of the good news that Jesus has died for our sins and we are no longer condemned before the judgement seat of God - this is the only unforgivable sin, committed over a lifetime and carried to the grave.

In other words, falling off the left side of the horse is the transgression of God's law. But one can fall off the other side of a horse, as well.

On the other side of the horse is pharisee-ism. The Pharisees of Jesus' age were like the Orthodox
Jews of today, gathering around themselves all kinds of rules and traditions to keep themselves from breaking any part of God's Old Testament law. Unfortunately, in their self righteousness, they became the judge, jury, and executioners of what they thought was God's will. They were all too willing to point the finger of condemnation at others and yell, "AH-HA!!!!" They were often seen stoning others to death for their sins.

When Jesus came into this world, He ate dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. Sometimes he ate with pharisees, as well; when those pharisees muttered against other sinners present, He rebuked them. When He was preaching and He saw the leaders of the pharisees, or those that were sent to cause Him to stumble, He called them "the blind leading the blind", "white washed tombs filled with dead men's bones", and "pit of vipers", among other descriptions. In fact, He was more vehemently against their sins than those of the transgressors surrounding Him. These ultra-self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus' time on this earth could not do much else other than stand in judgement of others, and the extra rules that they gathered about themselves became a code of conduct that went above and beyond God's law, and gave them extra fire power to condemn others. They were harbingers of death, and all they did was threaten and cajole with the penalty of death hanging constantly over their words. They put burdens upon other's souls and made it more difficult for sinners to deal with their sins.

So, if licentiousness is falling off the one side of the horse because we are not following God's ways, we need to realize that falling off the other side of the horse (the right side?) is equally sinful, by judging others and condemning them... some things to keep in mind about this...
  1. A continuous pattern of looking at others in self-righteousness should be a red flag to ourselves, that we are judging unduly. Though a recognition of sin is healthy, we should have a sorrow for others caught up in sin, and truly desire for them to turn to God.
  2. Though it is good and holy to point out other's sins for the purpose of helping them to heal from their pain and to bring them into a better fellowship with God, it is not good to knock them down by continued confrontation and self-righteous anger over their sin.
  3. If we do not forgive, it will not be forgiven us. This is an important part of what Jesus did on the cross. Though many wounds are unbearable and may take time to heal, if we do not release the person from the condemnation that we think they should have because of their sins - if we hope for hell, punishment, suffering, or we refuse to fellowship with or love a believer or family member, then we are saying that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough to pay for their sins, and we demand condemnation that goes beyond what is due a sinner. We should be willing to re-establish relationships when a sinner is truly repentant, and we should welcome them with love, as 2 Corinthians demonstrates. Granted, an unrepentant sinner should take time to prove their changed heart, but forgiveness is given long before trust...
  4. For the unrepentant sinner, Matthew 18 describes a calm and controlled process by which the unrepentant one is disfellowshipped - not in a legalistic and angry manner, but in a manner that continues to work to win over that brother in Christ. They may be handed over to Satan for sifting, but the hope is that they return back to Christ and repent of their sins. A demonstrated change in behavior over time should allow them to be brought back into the fold, as 2 Corinthians demonstrates. Though they might not be trusted for a time, and extra steps may be taken to keep them walking in holiness, love should never be withheld, nor forgiveness. 
  5. Though we should be aware of others' triggers and pathways to sin, we should continue to warn them in love of their path, prayerfully helping them as brothers and sisters in Christ to divert their paths and seek God on a regular basis. As addicts, this is important, because recognition of those things we know will bring us into habitual sin is important, and we can only help each other if we don't use a voice of condemnation and self-righteousness as we do so.
  6. If you empower yourself over others by pointing out their past sins or their weaknesses in an area of sin, this is a matter of condemnation and a lack of forgiveness. You are putting yourself in the place of authority over that person in an unjust manner. Essentially, you are playing God over that person.
  7. Pride has no place in God's kingdom. As I've said elsewhere, we should always realize that we play the part of a beggar, showing other beggars where to find the bread and water of life. No sin is worse than another, as far as what Jesus paid for on the cross, and if you think that it is your constant job to pull the splinter from your brother's eye, you need to remove the plank from your own eye first.

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