Today, I will obey nine of the Ten Commandments. Or, maybe just six. I don’t know which I will ignore, but surely at least one. Maybe several. For I am human – a house divided — wanting both the things of this world and things divine.
I am not making a joke here. None of us long for God the way God longs for us. None of us obey God’s word the way Christ did. And why? Because we are a house divided. We want conflicting things: worldly and eternal things.
Paul expresses this divided house in Romans 7:15, 18b-19 (NLT): I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
Once we recognize that we have in us both longings, we can begin to tease apart our longings, identifying which is sin and that which is holy. Examples may help clarify.
When I think back to how I treated that person, should I apologize? If I do it will be awkward and humbling for me and I will hate it. I will have to admit I was wrong. But will it heal that relationship? Will it allow me to own my part in the problem?
Or, perhaps another example: should I buy that ______? Will it give me an unhealthy type of pride? Will I be admired by others because I own it? Or will it be a tool I can use to serve others well?
Mind, we can end up in a cul-de-sac of justification here. We can make excuses for our purchases. We can even fall back into “well, it won’t hurt” or “God wants me to have that.” But if we are truly asking these questions and listening for God’s answer, we can be assured He will always steer us down the path of meekness, patience, peace, joy, love.
I give you fair warning. When you start asking such questions consistently, you may not like the answers. I think we are all shocked to learn just how much “me” still wants to be Queen-bee with all the shiny toys. Further, this process, is not a “one and done” decision or effort. We have to do this over and over until the pattern has become a way of life. We identify the part of the self that is divided; we listen for the voices calling: we practice heeding the one that is calling towards wholeness and away from the world. After some practice, this becomes our new normal. But then we start again: we identify a new part of the self that is still divided, we again listen for the voices that call, and again practice heeding the holy voice until we establish a new normal. Rinse. Repeat.
The entire process starts, however, by admitting we are divided. This requires an inner turning that our modern world considers odd and even distasteful. Remember, Satan (aka, the prince of this world) really doesn’t want us to turn away from all the sparkling toys that gratify and things that make us look cool to other humans. Because, if we turn away, we may indeed hear the inner song that tells of eternal, immortal, inner wholeness. Most of us never take the step. We never shut the TV off long enough, put the phone down long enough, or in any way tune out the world so that we can listen inward. But we must – that is, if we are ever to make room in our headspace to hear the small-but-steady voice that says, “be whole, be alive, be vibrant, be holy”.
God made Adam and said, “It is good.” God did not make Adam and say, “what a horrible thing I have wrought!” He made us with the capacity to be whole – to be “good.” Our life experiences, the world’s pressures, family labels, our own inner “me, me, ME!” that wants to sit on the throne – all of these have warped our true shape. Thus, I obey only a few of the Ten Commandments….
You and I may be lost in a blizzard of longings that are not God-ward. But we do not have to remain there.
I am divided. A divided man is unstable in all his ways.
Let me have courage to identify the combatants in my soul,
Ousting one and preserving the other,
That I may be a house divided no more.