Tuesday, October 22, 2013

He Today; I Tomorrow

“All of us are weak and frail; hold no man more frail than yourself.” —Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ.

17th century English Puritan divine Richard Dent—not to be confused with former Chicago Bears defensive end, Richard Dent—wrote a book for new Christians entitled, A Poor Man’s Pathway to Heaven. It’s one of the books God used to bring about John Bunyan’s conversion.

In the book he describes a conversation between four men: Theologus (Theologian), his old friend, Philagathus (Lover of Good), Asunetus (Clueless), and Antilegon (Skeptic).

Here’s a paragraph or two that got my attention:

Theologos: Some of God’s dear children, in whom no doubt the inward work is truly and soundly wrought, yet are so troubled and encumbered with a crabbed and crooked nature, and so clogged with some master sin; as some with anger, some with pride, some with covetousness, some with lusts, some one way, some another; all which breaking out in them, do so blemish them and their profession that they cannot so shine forth unto men as otherwise no doubt they would; and this is their wound, their grief, and their heart smart, and that which costs them many a tear, and many a prayer: and yet can they not get the full victory over them, but still they are left in them, as the pricking the flesh, to humble them.

Philagathus: Yet love should cover a multitude of such infirmities in God’s children.

Theologos: It should do so indeed: but there is great want of love, even in the best; and the worst sort espying these infirmities in the godly (fellow–Christians), run upon them with open mouth and take upon them to condemn them utterly, and to judge their hearts, saying they be hypocrites, dissemblers. There is none worse than they.

A capricious kindness that makes no moral judgments is alien to biblical thought, but so is a judgmental spirit that has no mercy or love for those who are struggling upward into the light. Knowing our own wretchedness moves us toward deep compassion for those who founder for we know that we also are capable of sudden and complete moral collapse. As a friend of mine once put it, “He today; I tomorrow!”[1]  

Like Pharisees
do we condemn
before both man and God,
one who slipped
and whose clothing
is smeared with sod;

Could we but hear
His voice,
stern above our own,
“let him without sin
among you,
cast the first stone.”

—Ruth Bell Graham

[1] Some years ago I mentioned to a group of men that we’re all only thirty minutes away from sexual failure. One Diogenean soul muttered, “it wouldn’t take me that long.”

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