When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The film Klute, released in 1971, remains a shocking movie which I’m not recommending because it’s rich in violence and degrading sexual scenes. But decades after seeing it, I still remember a scene which moves me to this day.
The lead character Detective Klute has befriended a prostitute named Bree who’s helping him solve a murder. As the two of them bond, Bree realizes the extent of her drug addiction and the depravity of her lifestyle. With Klute’s help she leaves both, then relapses, rejoining her pimp and getting high. Klute memorably confronts her, in the presence of the smirking man who’s encouraging her deterioration, by pleading, simply and quietly, “Don’t do this.”
Her cravings are leading her to destruction. When trying to reason with her, Klute’s hardly being “holier than thou.” He simply can’t tolerate the sight of her crippling herself, so he begs her to shed the weight she’s freely, but foolishly, taking back onto herself.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1
It’s a mistake to view God as a critical parent scrutinizing His unruly kids who never wash behind their ears. Truly He hates sin, so run – don’t walk – from any leader who minimizes God’s abhorrence of what His Son had to suffer for. Still, it’s not enough to recognize His hatred of the weights we stupidly embrace without considering why.
Sin is intolerable to Him because of its irreconcilable clash with His nature. But it’s also agonizing to Him because of its murderous injury to the objects of His love. So day by day, glory by glory, He puts His finger on yet another part of our behavior, or thought life, or speech, inviting us to let Him remove it, relieving us of its restraining influence. He convicts, we respond, then we sprint, freer than ever.
Every Branch Gets the Purge
He’s got that going on with me as I write this, riding me harder than ever about my thought life, daydreams, critical ideas, and generally unproductive mental patterns. The rest of me, inside and out, could use some help, too. But right now it’s my thinking that’s on the hotseat.
While part of me dislikes this as much as my dog dislikes me holding him down to give him eardrops, part of me also rejoices that His ongoing purging is proof positive that (miracle!) I really am abiding in Him. Jesus said, after all, that every branch abiding in Him experiences two things: fruit bearing and purging. (John 15:2) So when my loving Dad looks at the sin I clutch, He says, gently but plainly, “Please don’t do this.”
Granted, that’s a command, not a request, since God hardly needs to say “please” to me. But it still comes across less like a dictator and more like a concerned, loving Lord who says, “The longer you run this race, the more you need to shed anything keeping you from the prize. I want you to win; you want to finish successfully. So please don’t do this.”
The Almighty condescended to pick me out, pick me up, plunk me onto the Potter’s wheel, remove massive chunks of refuse, refashion me, then shape a work in unending-progress. The big “juicy” sins were the first to go; the little foxes, nestled away in the most far reaching nooks and crannies, are still being routed. For His pleasure, and for my sake.
Running or Meandering?
I’m not a serious runner unless I’m willing, even anxious, to let my Coach point out any baggage I’m carrying, which can only hold me back. It never seems to end, this baggage-spotting, since I don’t get a complete view of the all sins in my life weighing me down. He knows I couldn’t take that. So He chooses, week by week, what to call me out on, then bring me out of.
After my dog endures the medicine drops, he jumps up, shakes his head, experiences medicinal relief of ear pain, then prances around, buoyant and free.
Smart boy. The loving touch of a master who wants only the best for his own is welcomed by the wise, and the voice of the Lord saying “Be ye holy for I am holy” invites us, with affectionate concern, to shake our pet maggots off and enjoy, with each purging, increased and robust blessings.