Sunday, December 29, 2013

Walter Mitty of Christianity

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a short story by James Thurber and has now been made into a movie. Someone "Mitttyesque" is ineffectual and spends long intervals of time having heroic daydreams. Such a person may fake impressive careers.

As an example, I remember the janitor when I worked at Chevrolet Truck and Bus who reported to the maintenance superintendent's house late one Sunday evening. He was dressed in full military uniform.He came to tell Walt that he would not be at work Monday because he was going to Washington on a secret mission for then President Nixon. Surely, this person had spent much time in another world!

Luke 20:20a (ESV)  "So they watched Him (Jesus), and sent spies who pretended to be righteous..."

Spies in the Bible were to "test" Jesus. To get him to "slip up". They were looking for any reason to castigate Jesus. In order to fool Jesus, they pretended to be righteous. It was a facade to entrap. However, pretence is most often used to deceive others. Most now realize that you can't fool Jesus!

Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV) "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Secret sins means secret lives. Let's take for instance the Christian man who travels on the job. Some, when in  a strange city, become the "Walter Mitty's" that they dream about when home. Their real life fantasy becomes an actual event. As the Christian stops to pray and worship, in their mind, they may be lusting, plotting, hating, prideful, irreverant, or whatever people's minds are capable of imagining. Sinners such as these pretend to be righteous, living in false worlds. They are faking righteousness.

Those "righteous" are heroic to their cohorts. Many are admired for being spiritual mentors, deacons, and even pastors. Just as community leaders are prestigious, so are many church leaders. There's nothing wrong in admiring a spiritual leader. Billy Graham is a hero to many and rightfully so. He has fulfilled the "Great Commission" in a fifty-year ministry. However, Billy Graham would be the first to tell you how imperfect he is! Although Billy surely has "secret sins" as we all do, he is unpretentious. He lays it on the line. There is no Mittyesque attempt to appear what he is not.

The worst example of a Mittyesque person is Jimmy Swaggart. Note that Walter Mitty was a fraud in that he dreamed of being heroic, but was non-descript in real life. On the other hand Swaggart was a "hero" in real life, but a bust in his fantasy world. Both, however, lived secret lives. I would venture to say that Swaggart fantasized that he was a lady's man and irresistable. When given a chance he demonstrated that stereotype of himself.  His fake career was one of a righteous minister living the word of God. He may now have repented and become reconciled to God again, but at the time of his notoriety, he was Mittyesque.

Let's examine ourselves. We all do have secret sins. We hate to admit it, but although we may be saved, we are far from perfect. We still have pride too! When we fantasize about sinful acts or even do them secretly, we don't want to be found out. Our desire is to be righteous, but the flesh is weak! Paul had this problem and he was the best example in the Bible of a righteous man:

Romans 7:15 (ESV) "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."

As Christians we continue to sin because we're weak. We may not want to be Mittyesque, but that's our nature. Most people don't like to brag about their weaknesses, but we all have them. The problem arises when we pretend that we're something we're not! Paul didn't do that. He "fessed up". Like Paul, I wish I was without blemish. I want everyone to believe that I am because of my pride, but I struggle with the temptation and its sin and will until the day I do. I wish I didn't, but I do! Sound familiar? That too was Paul's problem.

What distinquishes a righteous man's sin from the sins of the Mittyesque person?

1 John 3:9 (ESV) "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."

Yes, we all still sin, but for many they have a "practice of sinning". Sin is their lifestyle. It is the rule, not the exception.  If one is a "Walter Mitty" they are ineffectual in their righteousness, but want others to believe they are spiritual heroes. The biggest differnence is that their dreams don't consist of heroic spiritual acts, but heroic sinful acts. They're just like the Pharisees who prayed in public for all to see, but their hearts were full of sin.

There may be others who are sinful, but dream of being righteous. They just have trouble living the life they profess. They too, are ineffectual Christians, but their dream is the dream of positive change. That's a dream we should all have, and with prayer, study of the word and a strong desire to change, these people can grow from babes in Christ to mature Christians. Those who dream of spiritual improvement are not deceptive in their dreams, but are responding to the Holy Spirit. My dream is to not be Mittyesque. That's a desirable dream!

1 John 2:6   (ESV) "Whoever says he abides in him (Jesus)  ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. "

In short, we are to be Christlike in our lives. If we're to dream of being something we're not, it's better to dream of being righteous and missing the mark, than pretending to be righteous and off the mark!

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