In Part 1 I posed some questions about brokenness. I related the fact that I have some concerns about the concept of brokenness, which has recently become extremely popular in some Christian circles. Let me say here that it is not at all my intention to step on any toes or to be critical in any way of what others have said or written on the subject. I started this series because I was troubled by some of the trends I've been seeing and I wanted to study it out myself before following or rejecting those trends. My only purpose is to seek a clearer understanding of what the Bible really says and to get a better handle on what brokenness is and isn't. I pray that we can, together, follow the example set by the Bereans who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 NIV
One of the verses most used as the basis for ideas about brokenness is this:
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
When studying God's Word, context is everything. If you read this verse isolated from the words that come before and the words that come after, you might get the impression that brokenness is God's currency of choice and that it is a quality to be desired and cultivated above all.
That would not, in my opinion, be an accurate impression.
When you look at the context, this verse is speaking distinctly about a right response to the realization of personal sin. These words are part of a Psalm that was written by David after God had sent Nathan to deal with him about his sinful relationship with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. David was right to feel broken and completely humbled by his unimaginable failure. When he came to God in this contrite posture, acknowledging his weakness and need, He found that God responded with unimaginable grace.
When David wrote these words, it wasn't because he was seeking or promoting brokenness as a quality of being. He wrote out of the appropriate anguish of his heart at the realization of how he had sinned against the God He loved so much. When God met his anguish with grace and love, David understood God's heart in a whole new way. The focus of David's words is not brokenness, but God and His amazing grace to those who recognize how broken they are.
Some people today are looking at this verse and saying in essence, "Okay, well if God values the sacrifice of a broken heart, then I want to be broken," and they make brokenness their goal. They turn a declaration about the tender heart of God toward people when they are legitimately broken over their sin, into a formula for getting God to approve of them or as a proof of spirituality.
My biggest concern about this subtle shift is that brokenness applied this way can become an idol, turning the focus selfward. The enemy loves this kind of switcheroo! If he can't snare us into being anti-spiritual, he'll change directions and be just as happy with hyper-spiritual or pseudo-spiritual--it's all the same to him.
What these verses DON'T do is tell us to live in a permanent state of brokenness for brokenness' sake. Brokenness is not an end in itself. It is not a coin you put in the vending machine of spirituality that gets you God's favor or approval. Brokenness is not a badge you wear to gain access to the "Most Spiritual" club. Brokenness is not something you can put on. This verse tells us instead that WHEN a heart breaks over its own sin, God will not scold and despise, but He will respond in accepting love. Brokenness is the right response of those who see their sin in light of the holiness of God.
It may interest you to know that the words meaning broken in the New Testament are not used in relationship to believers. The idea of brokenness is only used in the NT to describe those who need to hear the Gospel (Luke 4:18). Broken is what we were before Jesus came. Broken was our state of being before believing in Him. Broken is what happened when Adam and Eve introduced sin into the DNA of mankind.
BUT . . .
Jesus did come!
" . . . and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." 1 Peter 2:24 NASB
Wait . . . what did that say? By His wounds you should be broken? NO! "By His wounds you were HEALED!!!" [emphasis mine] Are we willing to live like people healed from the brokenness of our sin? Do we really believe that Jesus took all our broken pieces and made us whole in Him? Or are we sometimes more comfortable to live stuck in sin and clinging to our old brokenness?
As we approach Good Friday and Easter's glory beyond it, I pray that we will be touched anew with the real truth of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cruel cross. He was broken on our behalf . . . for our benefit . . . to win healing and wholeness for us, to restore our sin-broken lives to the abundant life God has always wanted for us. With this in view, I want to walk in that blood-bought wholeness, moving ever closer to being like Him, lest I profane His sacrifice by staying broken.
Yes, I still blow it. I still have weak places and bad habits. I still fall into sinful behaviors, and when I do, the only sensible response is to have a humble and contrite heart, taking my weakness and need and failure to the One who has already paid my penalty and bought my freedom. In so doing, I appropriate the healing He made possible and allow Him to clean me up, and set me back on the Way, walking as one made whole by an inexhaustible and inexplicable Love.
How do you see yourself? As broken? As whole in Christ?
Have you believed in the One who came to free you from the brokenness of sin?
Joining Ann in considering "The Practice of Easter"
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