Right now I’m praying through Mark’s Gospel, and the passage I read last night was from Chapter 15:
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9 Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Perhaps it’s just because of this series of posts, but I was struck that the sin most proximately responsible for Christ’s death is envy. Not the centurions’ wrath. Not Pilate’s pride. Not Judas’ greed.
The chief priest’s envy.
Envy is a powerful and ugly sin, and there are two edges to its blade. Envy is shown when you are sad that someone else possesses or has done something good, and it is also manifest when you are happy that someone else has failed or has lost something good.
Pretty sick stuff when you think about it.
When I look in my heart and in my life, I think the second form of envy is the most dangerous one for me.
It’s easy for me to dismiss both, because the first is one I’m not tempted much by and the second is most apparent in the form of gossip, which is also not something I tend towards.
But when I read about public scandals or stupid things celebrities do, part of me likes it. I puff up with righteousness. I feel affirmed in my virtue. I feel like my suspicions of the world are all confirmed and I thank God that I am saved from such a fate.
Then I go and commit mortal sins privately where no one can see them.
It is a calloused heart that rejoices in the sins of others. It is a sad man who thinks himself great simply because he is blessed to have his sins remain out of the public eye. And it is pathetic how easily I fall into this.
If we’re all brothers and sisters, then we should feel each other’s sins like family. We should take it personally, a besmirching of our common family name, and be saddened. But of course, that presumes that we get sad by our actual immediate family’s sins, or our closest friends or co-workers or any of the people we see on a daily basis.
I fear to look into my heart to see what I really do when those I’m closest to sin. Those people that I know and see: do I have the humanity to still be saddened by their sins, the humility to acknowledge their virtues, the empathy to admit their diminished culpability?
I’d like to think yes. I’d like to think that, other than celebrities or others that I can abstract and, in a way, dehumanize, I’m able to see the person, not the fault or struggle or sin. But, as with all things, that’s probably not always true. Especially when it comes to the sins I struggle most in.
Sometimes it’s comforting when others struggle with the same sins, especially if it’s someone you admire. That comfort can be healthy in the sense that you can feel bonded in a common struggle or mission, a common enemy to be vanquished together.
But it can also be a sickening sort of envious sloth where we rejoice in their brokenness because it lets us off the hook. We can tell ourselves “Everyone’s got their skeletons” or even think of ways how their situation is actually far worse than our own and actually ours isn’t the same at all, now that we think about it.
Truly, it’s dangerous. I’ve been tempted to it. I’ve probably indulged in it.
But I am saved, as always, by the love of Jesus, by the sheer indefatigability of His humility, how He deigns it appropriate to unite himself to us despite the infinite chasm of worthiness between us and Him, how He refuses to look at the tar caked on the heart he gifted me and instead sees what it once was and what He could make it again, how He is so saddened by my sin and so desperate to save me from it so that I can be with Him that He will become bread for me to feed on just so He can get His Divine Life inside of me.
Any contact with Jesus, any real encounter with His person, demands an eternal dispatching of envy from the heart. It’s absurdity becomes apparent in the light of His mercy. It becomes unthinkable.
You cannot admit the truth of His love and the universality of our fallenness without preparing yourself to set envy aside forever.