We all like to feel good about ourselves. Indeed there is a popular school of thought which suggests that the thing which most holds us back in life is ‘low self-esteem.’ When this outlook is accepted, the Christian message is adapted to one that affirms and congratulates us on our skills, character and abilities. Having made us feel comfortable with who we are, a self-esteem boosting religion can introduce us to Jesus and share ways he can help us in life and perhaps make us feel even more happy and satisfied.
Such an approach to Christianity is — unsurprisingly — popular and widely commended. Because we all like to feel good about ourselves. The problem is that God does not lead his pilgrims along a road that merely affirms and commends them. The way into the road that leads to heaven includes an unavoidable and essential humbling of pride and breaking of our hard hearts.To be sure there is more to a relationship with God than a broken heart — but faith in God cannot be experienced apart from it.
When we are confronted by Jesus our complacent hearts ought to be broken and humbled by the immense price he paid due to our sin. We see a fresh vision of the depths of our self-love and sin — and if we are clear sighted about that, it is heart wrenching. An outlook that is wholly consumed with self-esteem cannot enter on the spiritual path that leads to the celestial city, for it requires a broken heart.
Have you ever truly grieved for your sin? Have you ever wept at the price Christ paid for you? We do not live in that place of broken heartedness permanently, but at some points in life we must pass through it if we are to draw near Jesus as our loving saviour.
To be sure it is unpleasant and disorientating to feel broken hearted before the cross – but those who are determined to only ever feel good about themselves will never experience the comfort and peace that comes from knowing that God will not despise a ‘broken and contrite heart.’ (Ps. 51:17)
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk