Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The ABC’s of Discernment: S is for Sensitivity

We live in a fallen world.

As a result, we are constantly rubbing shoulders with sin. We become prideful and act in own self interest. Others lie to us, steal from us, use us. Violence fills the headlines. Profanity and casual sex are sprinkled liberally throughout television shows.

With such a constant bombardment, we can easily become calloused to the ugliness of sin and its consequences. We pass it off as no big deal or say it doesn’t matter. We forget how to blush. Desensitization sets in, creating apathy toward evil. Our discernment warps, and our normal warning system becomes muted.

But sin is a big deal, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23a). Left to run its own course, it will cause us to self-destruct. So what are the signs that we are losing our sensitivity? I generally find five stages mark our descendent into desensitization:

Rationalization: At this first stage of desensitization we provide a rationale for evil. We are uncomfortable with a sin, but our desire is so strong, we override the discomfort with some reason why it isn’t really wrong this time. Like in Eden, we hear again the ancient serpent’s whisper, “Did God really say?” So even though we might doubt, we go ahead, for the fruit looks so pleasing, indeed it seems even beneficial. In short, with rationalization, we accept that there is an alternative to God’s way.

Self-Justification: Unlike Christ’s justification, which raises us up to meet God’s standard, this second stage of desensitization seeks to lower the standard to my level. I have acted wrongly, and part of me knows that. Guilt sets in. So I point fingers and pass along blame—“it’s not my fault,” and “I’m not as bad as so-and-so.” Absolutes become obsolete and justice impossible, because now I insist that my way is just as good as God’s way.

Complacency: With absolutes now waived, the third stage quickly sets in. For if there is no right and no wrong, what does it matter what I do? Every way I can go is equally good in my mind.

Audacity: Discernment completely destructs at this fourth stage of desensitization. With myself as god, I crave the evil that feeds my desires, and because evil does “sate” those desires temporarily, evil now seems good to me. So I audaciously rebel against God: I know more than He does, and my way is better than His way. As a result, good is relabeled as evil and evil as good.

Gluttony: Now evil dictates all I do at this fifth and final stage of desensitization. Indeed, evil has become an addiction, and I crave more and more in my attempt to feed the insatiable. In a complete reverse, my way has become the only way.

Looking at these five stages, it is easy to think that we will never go as far as gluttony. But such a thought shows that the deterioration has already begun—we’re rationalizing our current problems and pointing fingers, saying, “I’m not that bad.” In truth, most of us deal with a certain level of desensitization in some area of life. The key is realizing that and working to change that, for in doing so you strengthen your discernment.   

Stirring the Pot
In what ways do you rationalize a wrong behavior? What does God really say about that?
In what ways do you justify your behavior or blame others? How can you take responsibility for your actions?
In what have you become complacent? Why is that important/why should you care?
How do you see the stages of audacity and gluttony at work in the world today?

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