Achilles’ transgression (the desecration of Hector’s body) was an egregious violation of the Greeks’ cultural values and was apparently intended to show what would happen to anyone who offended Achilles, in essence saying to the Trojans, in the modern vernacular, “You don’t mess with Achilles.” Achilles exhibited hubris by going far beyond simple revenge (“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”). The desecration of Hector’s body far exceeded the rightful, appropriate, and ethical response to Patroclus’ death, so it would have been considered a flagrant transgression in the Greek culture of the time, just as it is treated as a transgression in this passage in the Iliad. And, of course, this violation set up the fall and death of Achilles later when the gods allowed an arrow to pierce him in his heel, the only place where he was vulnerable: from Greek myth, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, had dipped the infant Achilles in the River Styx [river over which people had to cross at the end of their lives in order to reach the realm of the dead]. This submersion in the River Styx would have made Achilles impervious to any arrow, sword, etc. Thetis had done this to avert Achilles’ predicted fate to die young in battle. Unfortunately, as Thetis had held the infant by his heels, the place where she held him by his heels was untouched by the water, and he was, therefore, vulnerable at that place on his heels.
What was true for the Greeks is true for all of us and has always been true in Anglo-American culture. We have always considered excessive pride a fault, highly valuing a proper humility in a person of character, perhaps because of the influence of the Judeo-Christian culture and religion upon our country for much of its history. Scripture certainly warns about the consequences of too much pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride blinds us to our faults and keeps us from realizing our need to change. It can also keep us separated from God. In such a state, we no longer see reality, we no longer listen to truth, and we harden our hearts against the work of the Holy Spirit, who is trying to reach us, to entice us to return to God. In such a state of hardness, we see what we choose to see even when it flies in the face of reality and defies common sense. It is this state of “willful ignorance” to which 2 Peter 3:5 makes reference. In a state of “willful ignorance,” we choose our own delusion instead of the truth.
And, tragically, it is such a state of pride that surely leads to our own fall and destruction in this life, which is where the delusional people, mentioned in the last two blogs, are headed. They will most certainly one day run smack into a hard, brutal situational reality that will force them to accept the truth, whether they are willing or not. Unfortunately, before they reach that point of epiphany or enlightenment, they may be required to hit rock bottom, be completely humiliated, and/or lose something in life that they treasure or lose everything. For some willful, prideful people, they only learn through the harsh lessons in life because of their resistance to truth. Moreover, even in those situations, some never learn even then. In Revelation 16, as God sends various plagues upon the earth, there are hard-hearted people throughout the earth, who refused to repent and even “blasphemed the God of heaven.” Amazingly, they will curse God rather than recognizing that the plagues were brought upon them for their wickedness and were designed by God to break through their stony hearts, break their will, and get their attention so that they would turn to Him for salvation.
It is hard to imagine people with such hard hearts that they would not even turn and repent in such extraordinary times. But some people, not only then in the very last days but also in our day and age, are so committed to their wicked path that, no matter what happens, they will never turn and will refuse to believe in God. The pride and hardness of heart of these people is not due to a hard life or because they have never been taught about the Bible or about Jesus. It is a mystery of the human heart and will, but there will always be people that choose their sin over God, even when they live in complete misery from their sin. Unfortunately for them, destruction will follow in their willful, prideful lives, not only in this life but also in the afterlife when we face God’s Righteous Judgment. Looking at life with an eternal perspective, we would certainly be better off addressing and amending such faults as pride here in the temporal world before the dire consequences in the next world.
I pray that God will give us all eyes to see the truth about ourselves, and that our acceptance of the truth will bring us humbly to the Savior, bringing us in line with God’s will, and opening the door for His glorious, life-long work within us.