Judge Not Part 5 – The Curse of Self-Righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ–I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!– I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. (2 Corinthians 10:1-13 Emphasis Mine)

As I write this, it is three days after Christmas 2005. I am on vacation. I have been reading some very heavy-duty theology books for the past several months. I love it, but there are times I need a break. I bought a book on Christmas Eve called The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ina told me she read it when she was in Junior High. I can remember some book reports by some of my classmates on it. However, I had never read it. The story takes place in Puritan Boston. A woman named Hester Prynne is found guilty of adultery. She is condemned to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothes for the rest of her life so everyone will know of her sin. The focus is on keeping God’s law by judging her this way. I have read a few chapters so far and have been struck by Hawthorne’s grasp of the awfulness of the hypocritical, self-righteous attitudes of the people of Boston towards Hester. The gossip among some of the women who watch Hester on the pillory is so obviously self-righteous that it is repugnant. Why? There is not a hint of forgiveness in any of them. Continue reading