“The Holy Spirit is like a dove, if I sin he’ll fly away”.
I hadn’t been a Christian very long, but I knew what my friend had been told was wrong. We were discussing God’s indwelling presence -- the scandalous truth that God himself comes to dwell in our very being when we trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. My friend was recalling a teaching he heard about living uprightly and the Holy Spirit. In it, the teacher made the claim that since the Bible refers to Holy Spirit as being, “like a dove,” if we sinned, we would scare away the third member of the Trinity because our sin was like a loud noise to a bird.
(Insert Paul Washer heresy meme here. Also, if you understand that joke we should totally be friends.)
My response to my friend was one of disbelief and correction. God, the one who lives in the Heavens and does all that he pleases (Ps 115:3) is nothing like an easily scared bird and he is not spooked by our sin. Heck, the entire Bible is a story of God pursuing us in, and in spite of, our sin with a full understanding of all of its ugliness.
Yes, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus “like a dove” at his baptism (Mk 1:10), but the characteristics we see of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament are far less like a dove in action and far more like a honey badger.
A Very Unique Animal
Now, most of what I know about honey badgers comes from National Geographic documentaries, YouTube videos, and one particular kids’ show my son loves to watch, but in all of these mediums two profound truths about the honey badger are repeated again and again:
The honey badger is immune to snake venom and he does what he wants.
Impervious to Evil
First, the Holy Spirit is quite literally immune to snake venom. He always has been, because he is the one who cursed the snake to spend all its days eating dust and slithering on its belly (Gen 3:14). He’s the one who let the snake know its head would one day be crushed. He’s the one that filled and empowered the Seed of the Woman to live a sinless life, die a perfect, atoning death, and rise on the third day. And he’s the one that now fills the lives of all who follow Christ.
Sure, The Snake with a crushed head still thrashes about, as all dead and dying snakes do, but it is exactly because the Holy Spirit is immune to its “venom” that we can resist the temptation of the Enemy to sin (1 Cor 10:13). It is because of the Holy Spirit’s at work inside our hearts that we can be aware of our Adversary’s hiss and roar (1 Pt 5:8). And by the simple fact that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we take on his immunity too. Death and destruction, the very thing the Snake loves, no longer has dominion over us. We are immune to its ultimate effects and will live forevermore in a world free from death, venom, and The Snake.
Powerful and In Control
Second, the Holy Spirit does as he pleases (Ps 115:3). Imagine for a moment you are supremely powerful, have all the resources in the universe, and are bound only by your word and promises. Your word and promises, by the way, are to make all things new again and to redeem a lost and broken world. If this were you, you’d set about doing the very thing you promised with very little concern to the opposition you encountered. Why? Because you’re all powerful and you can do as you please within the very parameters you set!
This, friends, is the reality of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. He is not timid and fearful of our failures, but is strong and powerful to redeem us through his transforming power, and to use us to achieve his will of making all things new.
You cannot scare him away, continual hard heartedness will grieve him for sure, but do not fear -- if you are his he can and will soften even your hard heart for your good. Trust him to do that with both the gentleness of a dove and the ferocity of a honey badger.