Tom Gilson

Overcoming Smug Religionism With Humility and Truth

I’ve just published a piece on the good news of life in Christ. It’s his free gift of life to be received in both humility and truth. That was going to be all I said about it, except that the passage from Jesus’ teaching I quoted there (Luke 18:9-14) troubles me for how I live it out here on the blog. (This piece goes with that one, but its purpose is so different I wanted to start a different discussion thread with it.)

Humility and truth in blogging

It’s a strange world here: a place to be tenacious for the truth of God, to stand strong, to live in full confidence of his reality and rightness, all of which bleeds over terribly easily into standing for my rightness.

You see only a very thin slice of who I am, so, you don’t have any good way to know whether I’m more like the Pharisee or the tax collector in most of my life and relationships. You see me taking a stand for what’s right, which is very hard to tell from taking a stand for my righteousness.

To be right is good and eagerly to be sought. To be self-righteous is annoying in the eyes of men and women, and putrid in the eyes of God. Maintaining that awareness is a challenge anywhere. Living it out on a blog is hardest of all.

All I can say is that I’m trying to live in light of the whole truth, including the truth that I have only what I have been given, and that I wasn’t given anything on my own merit.

 Overcoming smug religionism

I am often doubtful of my own attitudes, and I am also troubled at time by smug religionism I see here in the comments sometimes. It is much more like the Pharisee than the tax collector who went home justified.

I think the better way to do this may not be so hard to figure out, though. The Pharisee spent a lot of his empty words on putting the other person down, and making himself seem superior. For the tax collector, it was only about him and God.

In other contexts—Acts 2, for example—we see Jesus and his followers taking on false beliefs and sinful actions, but you never see them speaking smugly. You never see his disciples claiming they’re better than anyone else. Paul said in many places that his Gospel was not his own, and that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

I am often filled with pride–the smug kind that God hates and people abhor. I ask God to let me live in gratefulness for his greatness instead. I will not back down from his truth, but I hope always to remember whose truth it is.

I used to run a tagline here that said, “We don’t hold the truth, the truth holds us.” I’ll close here by linking to the article I wrote on that.


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