You remember me telling you about my friend who called me out on FaceBook about John Donne’s poem Batter My Heart? His inquiry spurred a series of posts that were amazing. Hope you enjoyed them. Well, he has called me out again, this time on an equally controversial passage by Michael Molinos. We used to carry this book at LivingChristianBooks.com and I remember it being very stark and challenging. I think we phased it out to give way for other titles, but it is truly deep waters dipped from a more difficult age. From this quote I get that it’s not what happens to us that is the problem, it’s how you respond to the happening.
Here is the quote:
“You cannot be hurt by men…or devils. You can only be hurt by self, pride, and desires. Your self is the greatest devil of all.”
Michael Molinos, The Spiritual Guide (1687)
Michael Molinos was called ‘The Great Heretic’ by the Roman Catholic Church.
The FaceBook comments discussing this passage garnered a full spectrum of response, everything from support and agreement to deeply passionate disagreement. It seems Molinos’ dogmatic, black and white view of life still draws a volatile reaction.
Not What Happens vs. How You Respond
I started to pray about this because I know I have been hurt in this life. Is this quote saying that it was only my self, pride, and desires being hurt? Can I not be wounded without it being called egocentric? Isn’t this a hard-hearted view of the suffering of man? So I took it to God, and this is how I felt He responded – Mark 7:15.
Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.
At first glance this verse appears to be about the eating of food, but when you look deeper, it is about something so much more profound. Jesus wasn’t simply stating that we don’t become unclean by eating food with unwashed hands but rather by what comes out of our hearts. He went deeper than that. I believe in context this scripture is a statement that says, it is not what happens to a person but what they do with it…that makes them unclean.
So here are some examples. It’s not my neighbor getting a new car that makes me jealous; it is the evil in my heart that covets. It isn’t the immodest attire of that lady passing by that makes me immoral; the issue is the lust that emanates from my adulterous heart. And further, it isn’t the abuse of my parent that makes me angry and hateful; it is the bitterness over that abuse that erupts from my heart, defiling my whole life.
Why is this good news?
This is such good news! This scripture is incredibly freeing. It’s exciting, and here is how. If it’s not what happens to me that defiles me but how I respond that poisons my life, then I’m not merely tossed by the waves of humanity’s whim. This makes me responsible for my life and its direction. It means man can’t force me to choose evil; I have to do that myself. And this leads me to another amazing truth. If others aren’t masters of my destiny by how they treat me, then I have the power to choose God and to have gratitude for His sovereign hand in my life.
Not Powerless but How You Respond
Before I was saved, I believed that I was powerless in many areas. In my powerlessness I could blame others for these areas. “I have no power to choose, so I have no part in the blame. And it’s what life did to me that made me the way I am.” Kind of a “Get out of jail free card,” huh? But this irresponsibility only screams, “GOD IS NOT GOOD!” If I’m held accountable for my evil, while having no power to do otherwise, then God is cruel. But this scripture states to me that it is not what happens to you, it is how you respond to what happens to you.
Here is complete liberation because we all have been hurt. We all have suffered pain and often from the very ones we love the most. This is not the damning issue, thank God! The thing that separates you from God is how you respond to the wounds in your life. It is my reaction to these events, not the events themself.
This is exactly how I can give thanks to God in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God is God, God is good, and God is sovereign. I have the power to choose; I am not a martyr to the life I have been called to live. No man has the power to separate me from God; I’ve been given that complete responsibility. The choosing is mine to do. And that is what I will be held accountable for before God.
How You Respond and Not What Happens
For me, Molinos’ statement is emancipating and empowering rather than condemning and rejecting. It’s quite loving, even in its firm approach. It says, “Nothing can separate me from the love of God! No man, no devil, and no circumstance. I have been given the free-will power to choose Him in response to His choice of me.”
Sure, living now in our current age I’d say his statement differently, but I didn’t live at the end of the seventeenth century. All I can do is read it with God and see what He has to say through it to me.
My self-life manifests the entire list of evil seen at the end of Mark 7. Agreement with my human nature is a sure path to Satan’s lair. But the good news is Christ came into my hurt life to abolish the separation I chose. It’s not what happens to a man that separates him from his God; it’s how he chooses to respond to it that creates the rift.
There is nothing outside a man, which can enter into him and make him ‘common’. It is the things which come out of a man that make him ‘common’!”
Mark 7:15 Phillips
Here are some amazing resources on this subject. I hope you can enjoy them. There is the mp3 audio teaching Rival for the Throne that will help us to understand what the fight is makes us better able to win it. And also the amazing Shulamite Podcast episodes, #328 – #333.