Archives For Christology

A few years back I did an online retreat for a spiritual formations class I was taking. It was a core subject, with a large amount of flexibility in what classes you can choose from[1].

What was revealed to me during of one of these classes was the short but sweet statement, ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’. Recently, I found myself questioning it’s viability as a theological statement from which society can be critiqued.

I began wrestling with the question, is there ever an appropriate time to impress people? As a budding student theologian, I immediately started to critically work out a reasoned polemic.

The answer I came up with was no. There should never be a need to try to impress people, ever. If there is follow Paul’s advice and run, run far and run fast (2 Tim.2:22 ESV).

I’m a fairly confident guitar player, and I love a large variety of musical genres, so putting on a show is in my very westernized and socially engineered self-conscience. Throughout junior and senior high school, getting the latest riff right down to its semitone and crochet, determined a high level of social acceptance.

As a result I derived my sense of self-worth from how well I could play (i.e.: put on a show). In my pre-Christ alignment, this became an idol I obsessed over.

From hard learned experiences, for me appearance determined reputation and was therefore everything. The language of acceptance was, at least from my prespective, my musical ability.

The statement ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’ is counter-cultural. We know this because God’s standard is to ‘look upon the heart and not outward appearance..not as humans do’ (1.Sam.16:7).

This means that a statement like aim to bless rather than impress, is the ordained orientation for humanity, even if it is not always the reality. This statement appears on the ‘horizon of the possibility’s of grace’ (Leonard Ravenhill).

Father, Son and Spirit rushes towards us, not unlike the prodigal’s father running towards his son, undeterred by his “wasteful” public display of affection, joy, gratitude and forgiveness (Lk. 15:17) [2].

For now, I have concluded that humans are called to be bothered with how we bless people, as opposed to how we impress them. This does not mean I give up on performing, it means that I resist any area in my life where my performance, worth and acceptance is tempted to become about simply just ‘putting on a show’.

Today, I was reading my news feeds and stumbled across this relevant gem by Wendy Murray:

”Your worth, and mine, cannot–I dare say, must not — be reduced to “likes,” “retweets,” “shares,” and “mentions.” Your worth and, mine; your influence on others’ lives, and mine, have nothing to do with measureable algorythms. It is a lie…be who you are, before God. Do what God made you to do. Look people in the eye. Show up. That is enough’’

What that all means is this:

In order to express excellence we must only do our best! Outside simply giving our best, the contemporary ”virtue” of excellence and the quest for it can become an idol.

In doing so we live out of a darkened sense of self-worth dictated to us by others, instead of God’s idea of who we are. When we aim to bless, rather than impress, we set our feet on the Christological reality that says,

‘it is only from God that men and women know who they are’ (Bonhoeffer 1966, p.31).

This is the only measuring stick, and from it we ‘intuitively recognize that we, ourselves are more than what has been defined for us’ (Cone paraphrased p.11, 1975).

Give thanks, for “we are found”… (David Crowder)


References:

Bonhoeffer, D. 1966 Christology William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London

Cone, J.H. 1975, God of the oppressed Orbis books, Maryknoll, N.Y

(Edited from an article originally posted in 2013)


[1] I plan to write on some of my experiences, if I get the time to formulate them into a coherent and linear framework.

[2] Luke 15:17 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (ESV)

Photo by José Martín on Unsplash

IMG_5720Jesus’ stated, ‘…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.’ (Matthew.10:22; Mark 13:13).

Not hated because we reflect the light, but because, although, we were ‘at one time darkness, we are now, light in the Lord.’ (Paul, to the Church in Ephesus, 5:8). Therefore, we ‘walk as children of the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Eph.5:11).

It’s where this:

‘A summer’s sun, even when beclouded, yields more comfort and warmth to the earth than a winter’s sun that shines brightest.’
(Charles Spurgeon, FPG)

Reminds me of G.K Chesterton’s,

“the moon gives off light, but not life. It is a cold, morbid light. It is light without heat ; a secondary light, only a dim reflection from a dead world.” (Orthodoxy, p.18 paraphrased)

From there, Plato’s cave (The Republic, 360 BC) comes to mind. Three men. Prisoners, shackled in darkness since birth. Their only knowledge of life is obtained from flickers of light, reflecting shadows on the wall. Each image mesmerises them. Birthed into deception, they are stopped from noticing the bright light beaming in from the cave’s entrance. Until the chains are removed from one of the men, who then proceeds to move outside.  Believing shadows to be more real than the things he now sees, at first he is disoriented and confused – ‘looking straight at the light, brings pain to his eyes.’ (ibid, p.131). After some time passes the freed man begins to see the shadows for what they are, a counterfeit reality – only ‘the shadows of true existence; false notions’.

He returns to the cave to spread this news and free the others. Instead, he is met with violence, ridicule and aggression, because:

 ‘it was better not even to think of ascending [out of the cave]; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.’ (ibid, p.132)
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderment of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.’ (ibid, p.133)

The pre-“Christendom” Christians, namely the disciple, John, point to a dichotomy between a spirit of truth and the spirit of error (deception); of combating this by ‘walking in love and truth’ (2 John.4), of ‘speaking truth in love’ (Paul, Eph.4:6).

In Christ, we are called [and called to be, what and who we already are in Christ] children of the light, not a morbid, ineffective, static, dim and cold, secondary light. When a light offends our eyes, we don’t turn the light off. We wait for our eyes to adjust and navigate from there.

Let Christ shine bright; walk the talk – ‘let us love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John.3:18), – taking into account prayer, wisdom and discernment – even if it means people are offended; or like the prisoners of Plato’s cave, in their state of happy ignorance, act out of their offended-ness accuse falsely, and ‘hate us without cause’ (John 15:18 –  16:1-3).

 


Sources:

Chesterton, G.K. 1901 Orthodoxy Relevant Books

Plato, The Republic

Spurgeon, C. 1883 Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden Funk & Wagnalls Publishers