My third book, The Radical Jesus, was hot off the press. While holding a fresh copy in my hands I thought that the printer did an excellent job. I was excited over how wonderfully my wife designed the front and back covers and laid the entire book out. It was better than I expected.
Within the next couple of days my wife and I sent copies of the book to everyone that helped with the editing. A week or so later I got an email from Kathy Gallagher, the wife of Steve who wrote the foreword to the book. In a very sweet and humble way Kathy informed me that we spelled their last name wrong on the front cover. I was shocked. How could Jessica and I have missed such an obvious mistake? We only printed 250 books for a trial run so the error will not be too far reaching. Nevertheless, it will be a testimony of how blind we can often be to the obvious.
It was interesting to me that neither of us could see what was right in front of our noses; we were blind. This issue when applied to our spiritual life and character is not a minor problem but a potentially deadly blindness with far reaching consequences. What sins and character flaws are we blind to that everybody else can plainly see? Let me give an example from my family. My dad had just turned 91. Two years prior he buried his third wife (the first two he divorced). While his third wife was slowly dying in a convalescent home he had a girlfriend on the side that lived in the same retirement complex. The family of this woman secretly removed her from the complex due to my father’s inappropriate conduct.
Throughout all of my dad’s marriages he never accepted any responsibility for their breakdown. He always blamed the “stupid women,” to use his phrase and manner of thinking. He also drove his three sons away from him and refused to acknowledge the reasons they all, at one time or another, disowned him. My dad is willfully blind to the obvious truth of his bad character. His sin is right in front of his nose, but he stubbornly refuses to open his eyes and own up to his sin.
When I recognize the blindness people have concerning their sin and the ugly dimensions of their character, I often wonder what corrupt areas of my life others can clearly see but to which I am blind. Spiritual blindness is most always a willful choice. We think it is easier to ignore the problem, blame others or hide behind whatever excuses we fabricate rather than face the cold, hard facts about what we actually are on the inside.
More times than I care to count I have seen families that call themselves Christian suffering under the ravages of their sin, yet refuse to repent and change. Even though they are damaging their children and the cause of Christ they deny that they have done anything wrong. And even if they do acknowledge that they have sinned, all too often, they do little to change the situation. Stories abound about violent martial fights with police being called; habitual arguing that tears the family apart; incest, adultery, homosexuality and pornography that devastates the home; drug and alcohol use that leaves scars that last a lifetime; foolish financial decisions that bring ruin to the family and the list goes on and on.
At times there is a form of self-righteousness that accompanies spiritual blindness whether it is in the life of a professing Christian or nonbeliever. Sometimes this self- righteousness is expressed in the deceptive belief that they are “good people.” As a result, they cannot see the reality that the motions of sin are working in and through them to their own ruin and that of others.
Take for example the breakdown of marriages. They disintegrate because spouses refuse to accept responsibility in the destruction of the marriage. They become experts at blaming each other and can recite from memory a long list of offenses the spouse has committed. All the while they refuse to acknowledge their part in the matter, repent of their sin and change.
Through our foolish ways of thinking we can even blame others for the sins we practice as if we are innocent of the matter. This often happens with alcoholics and drug addicts that blame their condition on their parents or other circumstances. Even though they may confess that they are sinners, they refuse to accept personal responsibility for their actions. They think it is easier to cope with their problems by blaming others for their sin rather than receiving God’s transforming grace.
Another way people hide behind this pseudo-form of self-righteousness is by comparing themselves with others. In this state of affairs, people downplay their sin by claiming they are not as bad as other people or that everybody is doing it so it cannot be that bad. They maintain their sins are only little ones such as “white lies” or “I’m only a recreational drinker.” Yet God’s Word informs us that “drunkards” and “all liars” will be cast into “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (1 Cor. 6:10; Rev. 21:8). This means that there is no such thing as a small sin.
Along with the above scenario people often try to hide behind the declaration that “God understands.” This shallow argument comes out of the false belief that they are somehow exempt from responsibility for their sins or above God’s laws. One man I confronted over his sexual sins claimed his sex drive was stronger than other men’s so God understood his problem. Such statements should terrify us because the Lord knows why we practice sin and that we have no excuses to hide behind. The ever increasing number of church folk that are living in common law marriages (which are no marriages at all), are also quick to claim “God understands.” The Scriptures call this sin fornication and boldly declares that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). In spite of what the Word clearly teaches, many believe they will not face divine judgment because God is love and He “knows my heart.” They erroneous believe that God would never judge them for loving someone.
Oh, the seemingly endless stories of people and families that are rushing headlong into a major train wreck of life. You see the coming disaster, you warn them of their approaching ruin, yet they refuse to see what is right in front of their nose. When their actions produce a moral, spiritual and relational train wreck, devastating those they claim to love, they often blame God for their suffering because of the evil they practiced.
The Lord declared through the prophet Zephaniah that, “I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD” (Zep. 1:17). This is a cyclical problem: the more we practice sin the greater the blindness that ensues and through our blindness we recklessly rush into more sin. Breaking this pattern can only happen when we are willing to see our sin and take the path of repentance. Out of genuine repentance comes the desire to right the wrongs we have committed. Failure to repent will only make the impending train wreck worse.
God’s love made personal to us is seen in His reproof, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal” (Job 5:17-18). The Lord knows our natural propensity to spiritual blindness so He actively labors to help our blind eyes to see. Sometimes this is an agonizing process due to our stubbornness. He uses everything from pain and suffering to loneliness and despair to bring us to the place where He can heal our sin-sick souls. Friends, family and even strangers can be instruments in His hands to reprove us. Solomon was right, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Pr. 27:6). We need help from those who can see in us what we cannot see ourselves.
David, addressing this issue declared, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). The king was humble enough to receive instruction and wise enough to know that it was an act of kindness. Pride and insecurity can cause us to reject correction. We can even be so defiant as to stubbornly continue in the very practices that we have been reproved over. It takes a tender heart towards Jesus to receive discipline.
The Lord gave the church shepherds to love and care for His flock. One of the tools that godly pastors have to help shepherd the sheep is loving reproof, both from the pulpit and through personal discipleship. However, we can be very rebellious sheep. As a result, many self- professing Christians surround themselves with cowardly pastors that speak what their itching ears want to hear. Such shepherds abuse the sheep and “multiply kisses” through their soft messages. They are actually unkind, even heartless when they give their congregations crossless, costless sermons that leave the people in their sin. Jeremiah accurately described these man- pleasing leaders, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). The Lord declared that this proliferation of pathetic ministers has come upon us because “my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31).
At times we all need help seeing what is right in front of our nose. The wiser we become the more we will rightly respond to the Lord’s loving care that often comes in the form of reproof. Can you receive a rebuke from a pastor, friend or family member? Is your heart tender to powerful and convicting preaching? As Solomon wrote, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Pr. 9:8). So are you a foolish mocker or a wise man or woman? Let me be transparent here, nobody likes to receive correction, including myself. Nonetheless, it is a very necessary work that the Lord uses to get us to our heavenly home.
We must look beyond our offended pride and insecurities to grab hold of the prize that awaits us when we respond to the Lord’s reproof. With great tenderness the Lord stated, “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you” (Pr. 1:23). Is not such a prize worth it all?
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.