Seven Deadly Sins image

Seven Deadly Sins

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One of my father’s catch-phrases is, “the Christian life is not like a battle; it is a battle.” Recently Grace and I spoke on this theme at a leaders weekend and how the battle of the Christian life can make us vulnerable to sin. For those of us in pastoral ministry there are particular challenges, frustrations, and disappointments that come with the role; but every Christian is engaged in a fight, whether or not they carry particular leadership responsibilities. While we can overstate the difficulties of our lives (and we should often remind ourselves that 21st century life in the West is almost unimaginably easier on multiple levels than it is has been for almost everyone, almost everywhere for most of history) the attrition of spiritual warfare can leave us feeling beaten up and vulnerable to sin.

We approached this issue through the grid of the seven deadly sins. Those of us from a protestant, evangelical, background are probably not very familiar with this method of appraising sin – or consider it a piece of Roman Catholic flummery. However, I have found the seven a helpful way in which to bring my own weakness and need of God’s grace into focus.

We’ll start with the daddy of all sins: Pride

Pride is the root sin, the fundamental sin, the original sin. In Augustinian expression it is love of self placed above love for God. All sin has pride at its root, as choosing to sin always expresses a lack of faith – a lack of love – for God. It was pride (love of self) that set satan against God, and it was pride that caused Adam and Eve to disobey God in the garden. It is that same sin of Adam that lies at the heart of the human condition still. Because pride is the root sin it is the one sin that God directly opposes: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Signs of pride
Pride is the slyest of all sins and can have us in its coils without us even knowing it. Warning signs to look out for include:
Atheism: I guess that not many atheists visit this blog, but it is possible for us to be functional atheists. Functional atheism is when we go for minutes, hours or days without deliberate reliance on God and recognition of his claim of priority over us. 
Being controlling: Even godly, grace-oriented Christians can become controlling. It happens subtly and is expressed in all kinds of ways, but reflects the fundamental assertion that, “things need to be done my way” and as such is a manifestation of pride.
Being overly opinionated: Pride manifests itself in this way when we regard disagreement as personal affront and refuse to accept advice and help. It is when we are quick to see the faults in others, and point them out!
Being presumptuous: Pride catches us when we believe we can do anything, solve any problem, be impervious to any sin.
Being boastful: This tends to take the form of ‘selective updating’ and is the kind of thing that happens when in response to the question, How large is your church? a church leader responds with the number who came to the carol service, and not with the number who were there on the May Bank Holiday Sunday.
Being anxious: Pride can trip us up if we are over-concerned about the opinions of others. We might think that feeling low about ourselves means pride isn’t the problem, but it could be! This is why counselling techniques aimed at ‘raising self-esteem’ so often backfire – the result is simply to reinforce our pride. We don’t fix the problems of our souls by loving ourselves more, but by loving God more.

The spiritual battle of Christian living makes us vulnerable to pride because when life is tough we can easily develop a, “Us vs Them” mentality. We start to see other people as the source of our problems, rather than the mis-directed attitudes of our own hearts. Difficulty inclines us to ‘pom-pom-pom’ (‘poor old me’) and to imagine ourselves the victim of some kind of conspiracy, rather than receiving with gratitude the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Pride is deadly. It needs to be identified, and slaughtered, or it will be the death of us.

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