I would like to talk to you for a while about what I believe all Christians experience at some point in their life. It is a phrase I call “Christian Brain Damage.”
Before I go into further detail, please watch this short clip. It is an excerpt from one of Bill Cosby’s comedic videos “Himself,” made in 1983. In this section of the film, Cosby describes some of the difficulties he has with his children.
Although all good metaphors break down at some point, I believe that Cosby has caught on to a very simple problem that most people go through. As he described in the video, his children do not do what he asks them to do. In fact, they do what he asks them not to do even though they know they are not supposed to do it. He refers to this as “brain damage.” His kids do the very thing he asks them not to do and when he asks them why they did it, all they can say is “I dunno!” — Brain Damage.
I have been reflecting on my life and actions in the past few days and I have come to the conclusion that I have Christian Brain Damage. I constantly do things God has said are not healthy for me. They might be things he has commanded me not to do and I have done, or they may be things that he has asked me to do and I have not done. I fail God in this way every single day, and all I can ever say when God reminds me about it is “I dunno!” — Brain Damage.
When facing this fact, I am drawn back to the Word, where a fellow child of God was also experiencing Christian Brain Damage. Check out Romans 7:15-25
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
In these passages, the Apostle Paul is speaking to us regarding the constant struggle that he has with his sinful nature and his ability to do that which the Lord has called him to do. His life is far from perfect and he often feels this sense of Christian Brain Damage which has been caused by the evil that is within us all. He feels regret and remorse for his actions, and when he is confronted by his Father, Paul is thoroughly humbled.
The difference between the brain damage that Bill Cosby describes and that which we as Christians experience is seen in the father’s response. In his video, Cosby demonstrates frustration, anger, and even a disconnection with his kids in the light of their so called “brain damage.” He finds it exhausting, painful, and annoying to deal with. This, thankfully, is not how our Heavenly Father handles our Christian Brain Damage. Our Father is never exhausted by our failures. He is always willing to show mercy even when we manage to screw up every single day of our lives. Sometimes all we can say is “I dunno,” but God understands us. He says that if we confess our sins, He will always be faithful to forgive us. He gently and lovingly reminds us of His will, and righteously instructs us with wisdom and care.
As Christians, we all demonstrate signs of Christian Brain Damage (some more than others), but we are more than blessed to have a Father who is merciful unto us and who gives us grace when we least expect it. I know that I will continue to struggle with this, but thanks be to God, who delivers me (daily) through Jesus Christ our Lord!