Strange Fire

One of the characteristic problems of our age is the way in which such great harm to our society and to the people within it is caused by the desire of many people to view themselves as the victims of others without simultaneously seeing themselves as sinful and fallen human beings themselves.  Where the supposed divine fire that is fueled by a passionate desire of justice is not combined with a firm knowledge of ourselves and our own flaws and shortcomings, the result is hypocrisy and rank injustice.  Those of us who attempt to serve in a priestly and prophetic role of calling others to justice for their sins need to be especially careful that we are not bringing strange fire, lest we be consumed by the same fire that we bring to others.  If we look at the frequently misguided attempts at bringing about justice in our world, it is not hard to see how we frequently delude ourselves as to our own innocence when it comes to our ability to bring others to justice without simultaneously condemning ourselves at the same time, much to our chagrin.

The experience of evil that one has when one suffers as a result of the sins of someone else has complex effects that are not always untangled from each other.  For example, experiencing various sorts of injustice gives us a passionate hostility to that injustice (and perhaps others) based on our personal experience of the misery that results from it.  Unfortunately, it also can coarsen our own view and make it more likely that we will be unjust in our turn.  It is easy to see how this may be done.  For example, the frustration experienced by suffering from a lack of privilege may lead us to desire to obtain power in governments and institutions, which we then use to simultaneously attack privilege in the abstract and universal while also giving ourselves and those like us privileges that we are as loath to give up as those who previously held them.  We can easily delude ourselves into thinking that it is just that we should turn the tables on others and do unto them what they did unto us, judging in the collective of course because the people we behave unjustly towards are seldom if ever the people who treated us unjustly.

It can get even worse than this.  As someone who reads more than my share of works relating to the attempts of people to recover from trauma and abuse, it is distressing just how common it is that the same people who speak the loudest and harshest against such abuse engage in the same sorts of behaviors that they condemn others for.  For example, those who have had their innocence stolen away often work in fields where their coarsened and corrupted view of sexuality and the boundaries of it seek to influence young people in general to high degrees of promiscuity and experimentation that can be immensely destructive to the mental health of those they purport to defend and protect, whether it comes from identity confusion or the suffering that results from having opened oneself up to the effects of intimacy without having done one’s due diligence on whether it was wise to be so open in such situations with such people.  While condemning those who abused and took advantage of them as monsters, it is easy to forget that by exposing the vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation and encouraging others on a path that will lead to ruin and deep suffering and misery, they too are behaving in a monstrous fashion.  Their supposed fire for justice against monsters was a strange fire that ended up devouring themselves and those who followed them into folly and error.

How do we avoid the fate of being like Nadab and Abihu or the foolish rebels who followed Korah into destruction?  How do we avoid bringing corrupt fire before the Eternal while mistakenly thinking it is the divine fire of justice against evildoers?  It is helpful to note that when priests were to bring incense before the altar to burn that there were instructions on how this incense was to be created and under what circumstances it was to be brought.  When we recognize that God has set parameters and boundaries on what is acceptable worship–including our prayers for justice, and we respect those boundaries, we can better ensure that our desire for justice dealt in His times and His ways is not merely a private act of vengeance.  When we realize that the standards that were violated against us are also standards that we could easily violate against others if we (like those who abused and took advantage of us) think only about our own longings and fulfilling our own desires and wishes, then we are better equipped to understand that if what was done to us was monstrous, that it is a monster that could very well be found inside of us as well.  We are best equipped to deal mercifully with others when we are aware that we need mercy ourselves.  If we see the face of the monster only in others and rage against only external evils, we will be continually wrongfooted when others justly see the monster inside of us as well and respond accordingly.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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