Hello, my name is Ashley Farmer, and I have a problem.
I’m a recovering legalist, but I sometimes revert back into the destructive habits of my old self. One of those habits: looking at where my neighbor is going wrong and trying to correct her (or just thinking about how she could be doing better). Yeah, it’s a pretty bad problem.
I’ll never forget the term a youth pastor threw at us one Wednesday night. “God doesn’t need any ‘junior Holy Spirits’ running around.” Junior Holy Spirit. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be called the TRInity if there were four members…or 4 kajillion depending on how many people have tried it out.
The point of the lesson, all kidding aside, was that we as Christians don’t need to try to “convict” others of their sins because frankly that’s what the Holy Spirit already does perfectly. Now there is a whole other discussion concerning the issue of confronting a believer caught in sin, and this is prescribed in God’s word (one reference is in Galatians 6:1). But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the person who thinks it’s her job to point out where another person is going wrong. In my case it often stems from my own tendency to be critical of myself (I need to follow the rules…be a good legalist).
There is definitely a difference in motives between the person who confronts a believer caught in sin and the person who tries to convince a believer or nonbeliever that he/she is sinning. The former does so out of love and obedience, and usually the confrontation takes place with another person to mediate or encourage repentance alongside the “confronter” (and this is not someone that the confronter gossips to about the “sinner”). The Junior Holy Spirit would try to confront alright, but it would be out of a spirit of pride or selfishness to make herself look better, more spiritual, or to belittle the other person (if it sounds ugly and looks ugly, it’s probably because it IS ugly).
I don’t believe a single person would say (or want to admit) that this is an area in which she struggles. Who is brave enough to walk up to a friend (or acquaintance) and say, “you know, you are so prideful and I can’t stand that about you”? Uhhh…chances are very few would do that. But I do believe there are times when we fall into the Junior Holy Spirit trap, only it looks a little less ugly, if you will.
I’m referring to the insidious, I’m-more-spiritual, comparison game that goes on in our minds. Here I am trucking along in my walk with Jesus, and though I know I’m far from perfect, I don’t do “really” bad things. Bad things like so-and-so does. I begin to dwell on that person’s issue. I get worked up over his behavior to the point that my focus is not so much on what I need God to work out in my life but what needs to happen in this person’s life. Why??! Why do I do this? I feel like Paul when he says, “I do the things I don’t want to do” (see Romans 7).
I think I can easily struggle with this problem because I’m recovering from legalism. If I follow all the rules, I will be rewarded, and everyone (especially God) will like me. When other people don’t follow the rules, it will bother me because that’s not the way you play the legalism game. So if someone isn’t playing by the rules, I should probably be upset about it and wonder why they’re getting away with it. I may even be brave enough to say something to them, although it will likely come across as judgmental. Red flags should go up all over the place if this is my thinking.
God throws up the time-out sign and says, “since when does your obedience depend on another person’s actions, My child?” Uh… *gulp* it. doesn’t. I’m sure God ever-so-gently speaks over me, “why are you wasting your time thinking about how so-and-so needs to change? That’s always been My department. You have no control over what other people do, and you need to let it go.”
Trying to be a Junior Holy Spirit is
hard impossible work.
What’s a girl to do? My obedience does not depend on another person’s actions. If God tells me to serve someone who has trouble with pride, and I think to myself “gee, I really don’t want to serve her because she’s just expecting people to serve her…” then I have an obedience problem. The other person is not my problem. I am my problem.
Will it be hard to obey when God calls me to serve a difficult person? You bet. Does this mean I’m off the hook? Not on your life. Should I try to make myself obey? Well, it’s not about trying harder to do better (remember this Just Try Harder?). It’s about abiding in the Vine, relying on Jesus to change your heart as you are in constant submission to His leading. The struggle of the flesh (I don’t really want to obey) will be strong against the spirit (I want to do what God calls me to do). But the good news is, the real Holy Spirit knows how to do His job (on me and on everyone else). He is at work in you, willing you to work for God’s purposes and pleasure. So let Him do His job. He doesn’t need our help.