A Frightening Question
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:16
It’s often easy to see the flaws in others even while they remain blind to those same glaring flaws. Particularly with personality disorders such as narcissism, those around the one suffering from it can see it, while he himself can remain completely oblivious. This frightens me a little. What if I’m a narcissist and unaware of it? The problem is that we all have some distortions in our self-perception. Sometimes we believe things about ourselves that simply aren’t true.
While in treatment several years ago, a young man asked me if I thought he was a Christian. He’d believed in God his whole life and he’d always called himself a Christian, but he was on his 14th treatment for drug addiction. He kept going back to terribly self-destructive behavior, which invariably involved lying, cheating, and stealing. Those were behaviors that he understood to be un-Christian and so, he had to ask the question. If all I’m known for my whole life is my addictive, toxic, sinful behavior, can I really be a Christian? I didn’t know what to tell him. His question was my question. I’d been indulging in my addiction, while professing faith, for 15 years. If his soul was in peril, so was mine.
Today’s passage explains the reason for our concern. In it, Paul described those who claimed faith, but who’s behavior betrayed their unbelief. These individuals professed to be Christians, but their actions were decidedly un-Christian. Here’s the scary thing – they honestly thought they were Christians. They would have said they followed Christ, but their lives revealed that they followed only themselves. Suffering from a terrible delusion, they thought they were one thing when they were the exact opposite.
This isn’t just about narcissism or drug use. This is a question we all must ask. What does my behavior reveal about me? Is there any transformation in my life that stands as evidence of my faith? Do others look at me and see a follower of Christ or a follower of self? What difference has my faith made in my life? It’s terribly easy to acknowledge that God exists and to say we believe. Unfortunately, it’s also terribly easy to delude ourselves into thinking this makes us Christians. Authentic faith is believing in something and then following it with our behavior. What does our behavior say about us?
Failure doesn’t mean I’ve lost my salvation. I can relapse and still be a Christian. There’s always forgiveness in Christ. If, however, I claim faith but follow myself for my entire life, then I may be fooling myself.