Friday, May 09, 2008

On Pride

Augustine said that the essence of the Christian religion was three things: humility, humility and humility. It occurs to me that the essence of sin is pride. Pride works at least three ways to harden me against the gospel:

Pride denies that I am a sinner. Because it is unpleasant for me to think of myself badly, because to acknowledge my sin would put a dent in my pride and self-confidence, instead I say that I am 'not so bad'. Of course I am not perfect - nobody is - but I am at least as good as the next guy, and frankly better than most. If I have done things wrong, they are not very wrong; more youthful misdemeanours than sins. I am basically okay. In fact, I'm pretty proud of my moral standing.

If by God's grace I do become convinced of my sin, pride has a fallback position prepared...

Pride says I will get better. There is nothing that human beings under conviction of sin like more than an attempt at self-improvement. DIY salvation suits us down to the ground. I can do this. I can be better in the future; perhaps I can even atone for the wrongs of the past. Okay, I sinned, but it won't happen again. All I need to do is to pull myself together.

If by God's grace I realise that this is a fiction, pride resorts to its final stronghold...

Pride says I will not accept help. Maybe I can't get better. Maybe I am doomed to be a sinner. Maybe I am damned. Well then, I will be damned. I would rather pay for my sins myself than let anyone pay for me. It will be heroic: I will go down fighting. I will fight God with my very last breath even though I know I will lose, because frankly it is better to die standing than to live on my knees.

Oh Lord, humble my heart and by your grace grant that I might accept what you offer!

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