We struggle with double mindedness. We have two sides: one positive and the other negative. Sometimes our positive side can be also our negative side. We have a bright side and a dark side.
Within us, we have these TWO CONFLICTING DESIRES. We want to be good for others and live more wholesome life. We want to be pleasant, kind and loving. We want to stand up for what is good and right. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, we see ourselves being easily angry, negative, lazy, timid, and not care. We are sometimes dark, cynical, and critical.
Jesus asked the disciples to stay with him when he was praying in Gethsemane, probably the most difficult time in his life. The disciples could not be with Jesus. Jesus said,
…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak! This description is so true. Yes, we have a conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Here the flesh does not mean just a physical body. It is more than that. This is what St. Paul said about the flesh.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. (Romans 7:14)
The flesh is self that is controlled by our human weakness, and also by our sins. We have the spirit that is willing to do what is good. But we also have the flesh that desires the opposite.
Our task is not to deny that we have these two sides but to let our bright side take over the dark side. That is what spiritual journey is all about.
See Our Raw Self
Being spiritual does not mean to DENY that there is this double mindedness within us. When we are spiritual, we SEE MORE CLEARLY that this DISCONNECTEDNESS EXISTS within us. We see our struggle more clearly. Spirituality helps us to get to our RAW SELF before it reshapes us.
In our spiritual journey, we will see the disconnectedness between faith and doubt, hearing the word and living out the word, good desire and evil desire, thinking and action, knowing and living out what we know, fantasy and reality.
So our spiritual journey is not necessarily pleasant to go through but we have to do that to grow and also to find who we really are and to be more truthful to our self.
It is much easier to divide the PUBLIC SELF that you show to the world and the PRIVATE SELF that is disclosed only to yourself. But living like that does not give us chance to grow and to be real. The more we do that, the more we will deceive ourselves.
We should not play blind eyes to this disconnectedness. We should not use our faith as a way to ignore and conceal this tension and make us feel better. We may feel better but that is not who we are. Good faith doesn’t do that. Good religion doesn’t do that.
This is what James said,
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
If you think you are religious and yet you do not even know that you hurt others by what you say, then it is not a good religion. He said, that kind of religion is worthless. You think you are religious but you don’t even know that you are hurting others. You live in your own world.
Good faith does not do that. It does not blind us. It does not paint us with a false image. When we have good faith, we have a pretty good idea of who we are. Bad faith does the very opposite. It misguides us and blinds us. This is what James said.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. (James 1:22-25)
The Book of James
The book of James has been MISUNDERSTOOD for a long time. People like Martin Luther, the reformer, even considered taking it out of the cannon at first. He emphasized that faith alone can save us. Not our good works. But James said faith without good works is dead faith. That’s why many people misunderstood James, thinking that he was DOWNPLAYING the importance of faith. They think James is saying that faith alone is not enough. You have to do the good works.
That is not what James is saying. James also believes that faith is the most important thing. Faith alone can save us. But he is saying that your faith has to be good faith, real faith. Not fake faith. Not bad faith that blinds you and deceives you.
James saw his community losing real faith, the good faith. He saw that they were struggling with their faith. The external pressure was too much. Their life was hard. Some of them were losing their faith and left the community. Even those who remained in the church, they did not have living faith. Their faith existed merely in their brain. It was just agreement to the doctrine. Oh ya, I believe. Oh ya, I know that Jesus died for me and God loves me. They knew intellectually what faith was but they didn’t live out their faith. Faith did not do any good to them. It didn’t give them the POWER TO PERSEVERE their difficult situations. Their understanding of faith was merely a CONSENT TO THE DOCTRINE they were taught. THEY SAID THEY HAD FAITH BUT IN ACTUALITY, THEY WERE FALLING INTO THE SECULAR WORLD SURROUNDING THEM LITTLE BY LITTLE. James was saying that it was bad faith. It was dead faith. Bad faith doesn’t give you the power. But good faith has the power to transform us. That is what he was trying to say.
Good faith makes us see our dilemma and our paradox, and our disconnectedness. But that’s not everything. Good faith also lets us see God, who does not give up on us because we are weak. God still works in us. Good faith not only makes you see your faults and shortcomings but at the same time, it makes you see God’s grace. Good faith CREATES A MOVEMENT within us that moves us from selfishness and self-centredness to sacrifice, from hatred to love, from greed to service, from arrogance to humility, from laziness to devotion.
When we have good faith, we do not trust in our own power. We do not depend on our own power. Good faith makes us see God. It makes us look to God. It makes us depend on God. Good faith constantly cultivates heart that moves towards God. The more conflict we see in ourselves, the more we trust in God and ask God’s help. See, this conflict within us does not destroy us by creating a false self within us. It only creates more desire to change. We not only have humility but we also have this strong desire to seek after God.
We want to hear the words, not just as nice words. We want to hear the words, because we believe that the words have power to change us. We don’t just hear the words and turn around and forget about them. We meditate on them. We bring the words to our heart.
Good faith creates tremendous desire to want to change. This desire is what faith gives us. You can see this very clearly in Psalm. You see both CONFLICT and DESIRE.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God. (Psalm 42:5)
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2)
Good faith, genuine faith will NOT necessarily GET RID OF our conflicts. That is not how faith works. But good faith will save us from guilt and despair in spite of the deep disconnectedness within us. We will not be lost. We will be able to find a way out.
When you are discouraged, when you feel weak, when you feel you are worthless, don’t give up. Hope in God. And praise God. And seek God. God is your help. God will help you. God will save you from your dilemma. God will give you strength.
When you see your own contradiction, don’t be alarmed. Don’t try to hide it. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t run away. Who doesn’t have baggage? Who doesn’t struggle with it? Embrace yourself. Be gentle to yourself. Seek God. Find strength in God’s words. God will help you. This is where COURAGE AND HUMILITY go together. You become creative without losing yourself. Good faith is faith seeking to understand who we are and who God is.