Robert Frost once said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” I wonder if Pete Townshend of The Who was thinking about this quote when he wrote the Baba O’Riley lyric, “I don’t need to fight, to prove I’m right. I don’t need to be forgiven.”
The Townshend quote seems to speak about self-assurance and may have been influenced from the anti-war movement of the late-1960’s and early 1970’s. I think it challenges basic ideas of worth and value from that era.
It also simultaneously supports and opposes Christian theology:
Violence is not necessary when debating ideas.
Forgiveness is necessary by everyone.
This speaks to me of balance within the Christian tradition. Christianity would certainly support self-assurance as lifted up by Frost (and Townshend). We speak of being made in God’s image. The psalmist writes that human beings are “a little lower than the angels.” (Psalm 8:5) We seek to become Christ-like in our actions within the Wesleyan tradition.
Yet, we also recognize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The doctrine of original sin places humanity in a state where all people are in need of God’s grace. I have argued that evolutionary science agrees with this stance with the idea that the reptile brain or more primitive brain that is present in mammals contains the fight or flight mentalities that people revert to when stressed. In other words, science points out that we all have selfish tendencies that we need to overcome.
So I would argue that in order to become more Christ-like in our actions, we do need forgiveness. More importantly, we need repentance. While confidence is important to achievement, confidence without reflection is dangerous.
As I continue to preach on “Preparing for Presence,” what does the Incarnation have to do with repentance? Our lectionary reading for the Gospel is Matthew 3:1-12 and John the Baptizer certainly emphasizes the need for our repentance. How does this help us to prepare for Christmas?
My sermon title for Sunday will be “Yes, I’m Okay and You’re Okay. But Not All the Time.” We’ll broadcast it via Facebook live or you can review it later on the church’s Facebook page if you can’t join us in person. My hope is that the sermon won’t cause you to lose either your temper or your self-confidence!
To read more of Sam’s articles, visit http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com
Photo by Heinrich Klaffs [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.