The boy didn't need to hear it. There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.
In her 1952 novel, Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor provides this description of the protagonist, Hazel (Haze) Motes. In the course of the novel, Motes does everything he can think of to get away from Jesus. In the end, Jesus wins, though it's not entirely clear whether Motes does.
Regardless of what's going on with Motes, himself, I find the quote above insightful. During Jesus' ministry years, the Pharisees had convinced themselves of their functional sinlessness through observing a set of laws and procedures. As long as they followed those rules, they figured they were OK and didn't need anyone to save them from anything (John 8.33-41). Of course, the temple sacrifices reminded them of sin, but they were always getting forgiveness because they correctly followed all the procedures that were required of them.
To them, and to us, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Sick people who know they're sick go to the doctor for help. Sinners who know they're sinners go to the Savior for true restoration and forgiveness.
Hazel Motes tried to avoid Jesus by living a perfect, moral life. When that didn't work for him, he tried denying Jesus' existence altogether. Denying he was sick didn't work, but neither did denying there was a doctor who could detect sickness.
The best way to avoid Jesus is to avoid sin. As deluded as Motes was, at least he knew he fell short. We, on the other hand, sit in our church pews and sing our cheesy worship songs and delude ourselves into thinking everything's alright...all the time giving nary a thought to the falling short that we do every day in every way, and nary a thought to our inability ever to make it right.
[My friend David just posted his own blog entry about Flannery O'Connor. Check it out.].
Photo: Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes in John Huston's 1979 adaptation of "Wise Blood".
It may seem like a small point, but I'd say that the best way to avoid Jesus is to avoid being confronted with our sin. We can't avoid sin, but we can distract ourselves (with "church" as much as anything) from having to face ourselves and our sin.ReplyDelete
Great article on one of my all-time favorite books!
You're right, of course. I'm not totally satisfied with how I expressed my thoughts in this post. Obviously, we are all sinners, and we all sin every day. But if we redefine sin as the things we don't do, and then excuse the rest, we can manage ourseles to a point of thinking we're OK and don't need help. That allows us to avoid the uncomfortable, humbling experience of having to come to Jesus for help to change...what is also called repentance. When we do what you say, "face ourselves and our sin," then we will realize our need to face Jesus, as well.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your thought.
I agree, but most of us when we think of how to deal with sin, we are more apt to hone in our failure and plan a self improvement program than keep in mind we've offended the holiness of God. Until we are faced with a reality of what we are fallen from, it becomes a little too easy to take God for granted.ReplyDelete