The Holy Spirit and Common Sense

“Let your conscience be your guide.” Jiminy Cricket

As I’ve listened to sermons and read articles on the subject of the Holy Spirit I’ve been confused by the way the third person of the godhead is presented. Most of the time, the Holy Spirit sounds more like some type of magic elixir that will somehow change ingrained behavior. Or somehow lead us to be able to say and do things we’ve never said or done before.

I’m not arguing that the Spirit is not involved in the transformation of people, but many times we think of the HS the same way we think of common sense. We think that the Holy Spirit, like common sense, will lead us to be able to do things we’ve never been taught.

For example, looking before you cross the street is considered common sense. But that’s only because almost all of us were taught this. There was a time when each of us would have gladly walked into traffic, and if we weren’t killed, or weren’t corrected by someone, we’d keep doing it until we saw someone else get hit, and even then, that’s a lesson.

Things we take for granted, like certain behaviors that are considered appropriate or inappropriate, are all things we were taught. Saying “thank you” is not common sense, it’s taught. Which is why we remind our kids 12,000 times a day. But when we run into an adult who doesn’t do so, we think “well, it’s just common sense to say ‘thank you.'”

Same thing applies for how we claim to use the HS. We act as if Christian behavior is some sort of miracle instead of the hard work of self-discipline and through the modeled actions of those wiser than us.

There are a myriad of verses I can use to explain but I want to use the one I struggle with most “Be angry, yet do not sin.”

It seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Except, it’s not. The vast majority of Christians teach that anger itself is a sin. When we are taught that anger is a sin, we are denied the opportunity to learn how to be angry in the way God commands, and we end up sinning. Some sin by ignoring things that should make them angry. Disease, war, abuse, etc. To ignore these horrors is a sin. The rest of us give into that anger because we haven’t been taught how to control it because, well, we’ve only been taught to deny it. Denying anger and asking God to take it away is as effective as ignoring cancer.  We have to do something about the anger.

But what are we to do? Herein lies my point. I have no idea. Most of us are still trying to figure it out. I’m an observer and what I’ve observed is that few people, even those who would claim to be controlled by the Holy Spirit have this figured out.

We can pray, and maybe, eventually we might learn what it is to be angry and sin not. Most of us, however, will only learn how to repress it and ignore it. While the rest of us will actually have to learn this outside the church…like I have. In a most painful way.

Be angry yet do not sin.

I might have finally learned this lesson. At work, not at church. From my boss, not a pastor.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent post! Another point on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors being learned is that acceptability varies across cultures. I read of a group in Borneo whose language doesn’t have a word for “Thank you”, because sharing is seen as obligatory. As for common sense Descartes defined it as the power to judge well and to distinguish the true from the false. It also seems Christians have a tendency to project their own ideas onto the Holy Spirit (and they often contradict, even within churches); any thoughts on how we can avoid these errors?

    1. sarasamomx5 says:

      I’m still working on that. The last part, where we project onto the HS has been a painful one for me of late. Lots of people seem to have had a word from the HS for me, but, as you point out, they contradict. I used to believe that we could consult Scripture to help but I’ve learned lately that we all read Scripture through our own lens. So while I might see Christ as loving and Christianity as a reason to love and to protect others from people who would do harm, another might look only at the verses on judgement and see Christianity as a reason to hate and to hurt others. It’s something I’m struggling with greatly right now, this knowledge that we all pick and choose which verses we want to follow. It makes so called discernment trickier than we are taught. We cannot simply go to Scripture and find a verse to back up what we claim has been a word from the HS because we first have to acknowledge that we start with our own personal bias. And I just don’t think most of us can do that. Not because most people are prideful, though that is involved, but because it would cause us the huge moral dilemma it is currently causing me, which is not something most people are ready to face. So, long answer short, not yet. 😀

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