By R.C. Cunningham
It seems a contradiction in terms to speak of Christians as paranoid, for Christians are expected to be like Christ, and He certainly was not tinged with paranoia. But the Bible says some who name the name of Christ are not yet conformed to His likeness.
What is paranoia? Websters dictionary defines it as "a rare chronic nondeteriorative psychosis characterized chiefly by systematized delusions of persecution or of grandeur that are commonly isolated from the mainstream of consciousness and that are usually not associated with hallucinations."
Only a trained phsychologist is able to apply these terms correctly to a given situation; nevertheless the Scriptures warn against certain tendencies which, if we yield to them, can produce all the symptoms of paranoia. These tendencies are mentioned in such terms as pride, wilfulness, selfishness, self-deceit and "the flesh."
Self loves to indulge in delusions of grandeur. We like to think we can do a job better than others can. We are trapped by pride. We become great in our own estimation, and if we do not receive the recognition we think we deserve we are deeply hurt. The Bible tries to shield us from this trap by telling each one "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think" (Romans 12:3). As long as we obey Philippians 2:3 ("Let each esteem other better than themselves") we are safe.
The flesh sometimes resorts to delusions of persecution. Unconsciously we feel the need of drawing attention to ourselves, so we accuse others of mistreating us. We may never express the accusations we may keep them bottled up in our heart; nevertheless the feelings are there to rancor and fester. We become touchy; are easily offended. We are defensive. It is the old nature manifesting itself and we need to take it to the Cross. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6).
The verse after the foregoing reads: "For he that is dead is freed from sin." The trouble is we are not willing to let self remain dead. We dig it up, defend it, and instead of confessing our sins we project them, blaming others for the very traits of which we ourselves are guilty.
God's prophet said to the Edomites, "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee" (Obadiah 3). It always does. Those who indulge their pride fall into self-deception of all kinds, and if they do not repent they are easily led into gross deceptions of the devil. But there is a remedy for these problems. It is found in the Cross, the Resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. The old life is forever gone, nailed to Christ's cross, and by the Spirit's power we live a new life in which our affections are set on things above. We now find our satisfaction in pleasing Him, not pleasing self. This is the way of victory.
As they passed by a construction project, a little girl noticed the workmen on top of the building over 20 stories high. She said, "Daddy, what are those boys doing up there?" Her father explained that they were not boys, but men, and they only looked like boys because they were so high. The little girl thought a moment; then she said, "They won't amount to much when they get to heaven, will they?" She had hit upon a good illustration of Christian humility. The higher we go in the spiritual life, the smaller self becomes When we are "seated with Christ in heavenly places," we are nothing and He is everything.
Robert C. Cunningham (1915-2000) was editor of the Pentecostal Evangel from 1950 to 1984.
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