In telling of his conversion to Christianity, David Brooks writes that the “siege mentality” is one of the greatest obstacles that Christians put in the way of others on their spiritual journey.
This can slip quickly into a sense of collective victimhood. The “culture” is out to get us. We have to withdraw into the purity of our enclave. The odd thing is that the siege mentality feels kind of good to the people who grab on to it. It gives people a straightforward way to interpret the world—the noble us versus the powerful and sinful them. We have the innocence of victimhood.
Pretty soon Christianity isn’t a humble faith; it’s a fighting brigade in the culture war.… Pretty soon you get these wild generalizations about the supposed hostility of the outside world.… Pretty soon you wind up with what Rabbi Sacks calls “pathological dualism,” a mentality that divides the world between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad.
Rather than hide in a bunker as if we are under siege, Christians are called to engage humbly with the world around us, with eyes open, hearts submitted and feet firm.
1. Eyes Open
Ps. 19:12 makes it clear that we don’t understand how deeply and pervasively our sin goes. We are all much greater sinners than we realize (Psalm 40:12). Bunker Christianity keeps our eyes closed to our own faults. But we can’t come to a deep understanding of God until we see how sinful we can be. John Calvin writes:
Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and—what is more—depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is—what man does not remain as he is—so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.
Humility in Christ says we know we are worse than we think and desperately need God’s grace.
2. Hearts Submitted
When we recognize that we are worse than we realize, we become aware of how sin controls us (Psalm 19:13). Taking control of our lives means letting ourselves be controlled by sin. Submitting our hearts to God gives us confidence in his love for us in Christ (Romans 6:10-14).
3. Feet Firm
We fight a bunker mentality and the sin in our own heart by meditating on Christ and his Word, keeping our feet firmly rooted in him (Ps. 19:14).
Reflection and Discussion Questions
The doctrine of human depravity says we are thoroughly broken by sin. How does Psalm 19:12-14 support this idea?
Read 1 Corinthians 4:4. How does this relate to Psalm 19:12?
Reflect on David Brooks’s quote. Have you experienced this “siege mentality” in the church? Have you perpetuated it?
Read Matthew 7:21-23. Why should this humble us? How should this blow up our bunkers?
This week, try your best to avoid complaining, gossiping or blameshifting. What do the “words of your mouth” reveal about the “meditation of your heart?” Share with someone you’re close to.
Our identity in Christ should lead us to walk with confident humility. Where do you lack confidence? Where do you lack humility? Pray this week for grace to walk in confident humility this week.