“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit,” Proverbs 28.
In ancient times a city without walls was defenseless. An army wasn’t required to penetrate the city, a marauding band of brigands need simply ride down the streets. A city without walls was vulnerable to whomever happened to be passing by; there were no walls, no gates, no towers; and no guards or watchmen on the towers, gates, or walls. If what was happening outside the city without walls was good, then all was good. However, if what was happening outside this same city was bad, then the bad would soon be in the city. The city without walls was subject to the environment of what was happening outside the city – it had no walls to differentiate itself from its environment.
A man who has no control over his spirit, over his inner person, is defenseless against circumstances, defenseless against outside environments and attitudes. Such a person either reacts against what comes at him, or blends in with his environment – since his heart and mind have no control he cannot filter and process situations and emotional or intellectual environments – he can only react against the outside or conform to it.
People who have no control over their spirit tend to become angry; angry at their lack of self-control, angry at the intrusions of others, angry at conforming to emotional and intellectual environments with which they may not agree, angry at their lack of self-definition. This anger can be turned inward or outward – either way it is destructive, both to the person in question and to those around him or her.
Paul writes that a facet of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23) and that one of the deeds of the flesh is “outbursts of anger” (Galatians 5:20). Peter writes that self-control is a quality that should be increasing in our lives so that we will not be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 1:5 – 8).
A city with walls in ancient times was also a city with gates; and a city with gates had gatekeepers, guards who decided who could come in and who could go out. A faithless gatekeeper allowed anyone in, a faithless gatekeeper fell asleep on his watch; a faithful gatekeeper kept his eyes open and his mind awake, a faithful gatekeeper used discernment in deciding who could come into the city.
We are to guard our hearts and minds by discerning what is holy and pure and what is not; we are to recognize that not everything we think and feel ought to be allowed out of the gate of our lips for we still struggle with the toxicity of the fall. The Word of God can be a wall that protects us from the evil of the world that would crash our gates and destroy our walls and invade our lives in order to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
Self-control for the follower of Jesus Christ is surrender of the will to Jesus Christ; self-control is the surrender of self to Christ and His Cross. In this sense it is not so much self-control as it is submission of the self to Christ, and as we submit to Christ we find our refuge in Him, our shelter in Him, our peace in Him. Since no man or woman can be truly autonomous, our decision is whether we will submit to Jesus Christ or attempt to reign by ourselves in life; the latter ensures that we will become slaves of sin, of death, and of the devil. The latter ensures that we will be as a city without walls.
While in the ancient world cities had walls, in our world walls of distinction are discouraged and often attacked. Anything and everything goes in our society except the idea that on this side of the wall is right and on that side of the wall is wrong, on this side of the wall is light and on that side of the wall is darkness.
The New Jerusalem has a great and high wall (Rev. 21:12) and that which is evil and unclean cannot enter the city (21:27). This is the city to which we are called to live, a holy city. As living stones (Eph. 2:21; 1 Pt. 2:5) of this city we are to exhibit the characteristics of the city – the characteristics of holiness and righteousness and discernment. Rather than living in a world without walls in which all is chaos, we are to live as those who have the walls of discernment, sound judgment, mature thinking, wisdom, and understanding.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”