Tuesday, April 17, 2012

True faith puts a HAT on our PAC-man

Remember that great video game from the 80s – Pac-Man? Such a simple but addicting game to play.

That mouthy little yellow character is guided around the maze trying to “eat” other ghostly characters before being bit by one. And so the game went on, over and over.

PAC-man, to borrow the letters, can represent a pattern we poor mortal Christians can fall into as well. PAC-person might be better as it’s an issue for male and female, young and old, no matter how long you’ve been a follower of Christ.

Moses, David, Paul, and other biblical characters are good examples of the PAC-man problem in action.

Riding the cycle of PAC

Think back to the early years of Moses; post-baby-in-a-basket and pre-let-my-people-go. He was taking a little walkabout (Exodus 2) when he happened upon an Egyptian beating one of his Hebrew brothers. Moses didn’t like this and so murdered the Egyptian on the spot.

The next day, he encounters two fellow Hebrews fighting and intervenes. They are offended by his interference and asks if he intends to kill one of them as he did the Egyptian the day before.

The word was out about the murder, Pharaoh is after him, so Moses runs a few hundred miles to another country to hide out. He laid low for years and then met a burning bush.

Now consider David; a great King. One spring he went up to the roof of his palace and spotted Bathsheba taking a bath (2 Samuel 11). Even though she was married, he sent for her, slept with her, and got her pregnant.

To cover up his sin, David arranged to have her husband murdered in battle so that he could marry Bathsheba; thus, “legitimizing” the baby as his. Just when David thought he had gotten away with his scheming, nagging Nathan comes along.

What are the common characteristics at play in both these examples?

Gamed by Pride, Anger, and Control

Moses, the young man, was proud of being a Hebrew of status in an Egyptian context. Seeing his fellow Hebrews abused made him angry; it goaded his sense of pride. The anger drove him to take control of the situation to make it right, but anger-fueled solutions are seldom good ones.

David was living large in his kingliness. His pride fed his lust for Bathsheba. Later, angry that her pregnancy was tripping him up, he tried to take control and fix the situation to regain his sense of pride. Again, the hurt-pride, anger-fueled solution of murder was not a good fix.

A New Testament example is the pre-converted Paul (aka Saul). He was a Jew among Jews. Well educated and absolutely certain that he was right in having Christians put to death. Christians were a threat to his Jewish pride. Their existence angered him. The way to regain control and justify his pride was to exterminate the Christians.

The problem with the PAC-person cycle is that it never ends. Our pride will always be vulnerable to assault from the forces of life. Anger will always be the fruit of hurt pride. And control will always be the perceived solution. But since control is elusive and ephemeral, it means any sense of restored pride is fleeting and anger is again ready to pounce as we feel the need to wrest control of our situation.

Unchained by Humility, Acceptance, and Trust

All dysfunction is a closed loop of wrong thinking.

The only way to overcome dysfunction is to break the cycle, change the thinking, and do something different. As believers, whether we are aware of it or not, the door to God’s intervention is always open. He will break into our lives in order to break destructive cycles.

That’s what He did with Moses, David, and Paul.

Moses was humbled in exile, after a bit of a tussle he accepted his God-ordained role, which he then carried out by trusting in God.

Nathan confronted David and brought David to his knees, humbled by his wickedness. With the death of his child, David accepted that he was not in control and placed his life back where it belonged, in God’s trustworthy hands.

Saul got smacked hard on the road to Damascus. Blinded by Truth, he was humbled into reconsidering his thinking about Christ. He accepted that he had been wrong which opened him to even greater insight. He was renamed Paul and his calling was fulfilled as he walked out his properly focused faith fully trusting in God.

Put HAT on your PAC-person

We are prideful. When our pride is hurt, we become angry. To succor our anger we attempt to wrest control of our context and force stuff and others to do our bidding. When this doesn’t work, our pride is re-injured, our anger rekindled, and our efforts to control redoubled.

To break this destructive sin-driven cycle through faith means that we need to put a HAT on our PAC-person nature:
  • Humility: Instead of focusing on our pride, we must put on Humility. Proverbs 11:2 states, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). Standing firm on our pride will bring us down every time. Moving into humility opens us up to grace rather than disgrace.
  • Acceptance: Instead of fueling on anger, we must settle ourselves with Acceptance. When we are in a place of acceptance, we are yielded to or in agreement with God’s will for our lives. To agree with faith is to relinquish our own ways for God’s ways. James 1:21 admonishes us to, “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (NIV). By doing so, we are receive the promise of Psalm 5:12: “For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (NIV).
  • Trust: Instead of forcing control, we must relax in Trusting God. Humility that leads to acceptance rests in trust. By fully trusting God, we let go of any illusion of control. We recognize that, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).
Our mothers always advised us to put a hat on when we went out into the cold. The common belief was that wearing a hat would keep us from getting sick.

When it comes to living out our faith well, putting a HAT (humility, acceptance, trust) over our PAC-person sin nature will keep us and our relationships spiritually healthy.


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