Southern Duality

Duality: an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something (“the photographs capitalize on the dualities of light and dark, stillness and movement”).

People are round, and by this, I don’t mean their shape. In literature, round characters have depth and are not bound to being just one way, which would be called a flat character. Real people are like this in that we have a duality. No person is ALWAYS happy or ALWAYS angry, etc., but instead, people have different emotions and moods that can change depending on a myriad of stimuli.

There is light, and there is darkness in everyone. I like to look at it through this old Cherokee story:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is a truth that has echoed throughout the Bible in the New and Old Testaments. This is what Paul meant when he spoke about the Spiritual and fleshly natures, the new man and the old man. We have to make the conscious decision almost constantly to put aside the old man, the way of the World, and choose to do the will of God.

There is a duality in God as well, though it is very different from the duality of man. God is both “good” and “severe” to us, but the choice is on us as to which we receive. Paul tells this to the church of Rome when he says to “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off (Rom. 11:22).”

It is just like the role of a parent. A parent cannot always be “good” because then the child will think there are no consequences for his or her actions and will rebel. A parent cannot always be “severe” because then the child will fear the parent, which can lead quickly to hatred, instead of love. There must be a balance in our approach to our children as God has toward us.

Niccolò Machiavelli, the 16th-century Italian philosopher, wrote in his most well-known work The Prince that princes (and we can extend this to all leaders/authority figures) should strive to be both loved and feared. This is the balance that I spoke of; however, Machiavelli went on to say that “it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Many today, including myself, forget the punishments God has wrought on mankind over the centuries most likely because He has chosen to step back and not “be” here in a way that is tangible. We have no pillar of cloud and fire. We hear no thundering voice of God giving judgment. This does not mean that God does not judge. Like any good parent, our Father knows our deeds and will call them to account in good time. If we continue to strive to do His will, we will have a representative to stand in our stead and tell the righteous Judge that our debt has been paid.

So, as you go through your day, which “wolf” are you feeding? Are you making choices that bring the “goodness” of God, or the “severity”?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Chase

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back to the crowd.” — Max Lucado

Songs, stories, proverbs, etc. have told us for years that money can’t buy the things we really need (i.e. happiness, love, salvation), but we refuse to really believe them.

Lennon and McCartney told us that “money can’t buy me love,” but we still think that if we are more successful, that we will get that dream girl/guy. So why do we continue to chase after the “things in the World”? Worse than doing it ourselves is showing the younger generation, especially our own kids, that loving the World is the way to go.

John (the apostle, not Lennon) tells us “Do not love the World or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the World (1 John 2:15-16).” Those three things are the root of all sin.

Those three things are the root of all sin. David Shannon, who until recently was the preacher at my church and is now the president of Freed-Hardeman University, pointed this out in both classes and sermons. The motivation for all sin comes either from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. These are all things of this World, not of God.

We are constantly being tempted by things in one of these three categories, but Paul tells us in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” He echoes this sentiment in Philippians 4:8 when he says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

We need to stop chasing after things of the World, which are temporary, and instead, chase after Heavenly things, which are, obviously, eternal. Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount to not worry about Worldly things, “but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).” If we chase after God, God will meet us halfway and take care of us as a Father. This is the true meaning behind the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

So let’s keep in mind that having a great job, nice car, expensive house, fancy clothes, or a big bank account will NOT matter in the end. You can’t take it with you when you go! On that note, wouldn’t you rather chase the things that help you go to a better place?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Pride

“I wanna have pride like my mother had, but not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.”     — The Avett Brothers

Pride is a tricky thing. You should have pride and be proud, but you shouldn’t be prideful. It can be confusing. Hopefully, I can help to clear it up.

There are different definitions of the word “pride” that change how it can be used:

  1. “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” This is pleasure, joy, or a sense of achievement, as in “Take pride in a job well done.”
  2. “the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.” This is vanity, conceit, or self-admiration, as in “He refused the offer out of pride.”

Now, the first definition deals with self-esteem, and the second definition deals with self-love. The first is good, but the second is not; however, if you think about it, conceit is just self-esteem that is too high. So good pride can grow into bad pride.

Good pride is being proud of your family and heritage and not ashamed (i.e. patriotism). Bad pride is looking at your family and heritage as being better than that of others for whatever reason (i.e. racism). The difference comes in comparing one’s self and achievements with others.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” This is probably one of the most famous Old Testament scriptures. It’s been used in plays, tv/movies, songs, and poems for years even secularly. But what does it mean? Is everyone who is prideful in danger of “falling”? Do only the haughty fall? No and no, we all know this is not true. It is a proverb from a father to his son or a teacher to his student that we should be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we are perfect and infallible. If we think this, we will miss mistakes that can be very costly. Spiritually, this mistake could ruin our souls.

Paul was dealing with prideful people when he wrote to the Corinthians. At the time, Corinth was considered to be one of the greatest cities in the world, a center for business, art, and philosophy, but the Corinthians had taken that civic pride a bit too far when they began comparing themselves to others and seeing themselves as better. Paul cautioned them to not look at success in the eyes of the World, but to surrender everything to the court of Christ and let Him be the judge. “But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this, but He who judges me is the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3-4).”

We don’t get to decide if we are “good enough” for Heaven. WE WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH TO DESERVE HEAVEN!! We don’t get to choose who gets in through the pearly gates. For this, I am glad. God is the only judge because He is perfect and blameless and has no bias. We cannot make this claim, at least not truthfully. “ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).”

So be proud of yourself, your achievements, your place of birth, your family, but realize that you are no greater than anyone else. “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Galatians 6:3).” Don’t let your pride get out of hand.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.