Have Mercy Upon Me, a Sinner

I’m prone to self-righteousness and arrogance. If there are any sins that I always have to be wary of it is those two. I don’t know where it started exactly, but to lay out where I think it has its origins would make me sound self-righteous and arrogant so I will not address that here.

I’ve never quite seen eye to eye with my religious upbringing (at church not in the home). Don’t get me wrong I cannot remember a time where I did not love Christ or not want to follow him. Even when I turned my back, which was an inner turning away as I still had to attend church with my family, I still knew that God was calling. There’s a line in the Matrix where Morpheus, referencing the knowledge Neo feels, says, “You’ve felt it your entire life… You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” No matter how far from God I tried to run, there was that inescapable knowledge that he was still there. The funny thing is that this happened twice in my life. The first time was before I went to Bible college, and the second time was after I moved back to the US after finishing Bible college. I tried to run twice, and both times I never got very far.

My experiences overseas heightened and magnified my self-righteousness and my arrogance. It took a long time before I was ready to see and understand that. I thought that God would somehow take away my propensity to fall into these sins. My charismatic upbringing taught the way to not fall into these sins was by having experience after experience with the Holy Spirit or through a mystical transmission of some anointing that would fix things. Fortunately my growing understanding of Scripture corrected that notion. The problem was what I gravitated towards had just as much propensity for arrogance. What drew me was Reformed theology, but just as it drew me it slowly has been pushing me away.

Please do not mistake me, I still admire Reformed theology, and it helped center me during a very troubling time, but it may not be the theology I need. Out of all of the competing theologies in the Evangelical world I think it is the best out them, with the possible exception of confessional Lutheranism, but my embrace of that theology gave a steroid boost to the sins I was already susceptible to. Now that I have been interacting with the Eastern Church I am becoming more aware of these besetting sins and have been more mindful to, through God’s help, avoid falling into them.

There’s a prayer that I pray regularly now called the Jesus Prayer. It’s a very old prayer made up from two Scriptures. The prayer says, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God have mercy upon me a sinner.” To my more Evangelical minded friends that may sound defeatist, but a prayer that continually asks for Christ’s mercy in a spirit of humility is just the thing I need and will always need.

Lord have mercy.

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