I appreciate what RZIM’s J.M. Njoroge says in today’s “Slice of Infinity” about the way “we squander valuable benefits of dedicated teamwork within the household of faith,” and thereby “lose our edge in a broken world.”
He says, “In spite of the fact that Jesus prayed fervently for unity among his followers, the visible church is often a conglomeration of competing factions, each equally convinced of its solitary possession of divine favor. Those who seek signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit are usually suspicious of those who emphasize exegetical approaches to the Scriptures. Christian scholars are sometimes content just to talk to each other, and the uncanny tendency of apologists to sniff out what they deem rotten doctrine is not always appreciated.”
Read the whole article at http://www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/for-unity/
Concluding a sermon in 1941 entitled “The Weight of Glory”, C.S. Lewis said:
“Meanwile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat [truly hides]- the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
From The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, C.S. Lewis.
Imagine what it must have been like for Saul of Tarsus after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Here was a man who sincerely believed with all his heart that he was defending the truth of God. But he has just discovered that he had been violently fighting against his God. How traumatic that must have been. Acts 9:9 merely says that he couldn’t see and didn’t eat or drink for three days. He couldn’t see, because he had been blinded by the bright light. (The others were not.) But the fasting was his part. He must have been in deep mourning over his actions against the very God he thought he loved. Indeed, he may have been so distressed that he couldn’t eat. It has to be a terrifying thing to suddenly realize that everything you have placed your energies into has been 180 degrees off!
One or two thoughts:
First, we can be dead wrong on issues we think are critical. What would it take to make us do an about-face on the direction of our lives? Think of your most fundamental belief. What if you were to suddenly be shown beyond any doubt that it was wrong? How would you feel? That’s what Saul would have been experiencing during his three days of blindness in Damascus (and for some time after).
Secondly, this is exactly what we are expecting the atheist, the agnostic, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the materialist, and so many others to go through when we ask them to come to Christ. We tend to think it’s a simple, single step. Far from it! And one of the scariest prospects for them is to begin associating with us – a group they consider to be anti-everything they currently consider to be right.
We must not trivialize evangelism as simply sharing an outline and saying a prayer. It is the work of God in the hearts of men and women, girls and boys. He has chosen to use us in the process first and foremost by the testimony of our lives as a demonstration and proof of His love (John 13:34-35; 17:21,23). Then he is able to use our voices as we gently give an answer to the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Finally, are we really open to the leading of the Holy Spirit? We hold many beliefs about which there are disagreements even among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Opposite views cannot all be true. Am I so arrogant to think that all my views are the ones that are?
Lord, guide me into your truth in the things You want me to know. Help me to understand what’s really important to the extent to which you want me to understand. Grant me the willingness to hold loosely those things that are not so important and to allow others to do the same. Most of all, help me to be compassionate and understanding of those who oppose You, to pray for your work in their lives, and to be ready for your timing and direction to share your good news with them.
The overall theme of the Bible can be summarized as God saying,
- I created you.
- I am holy.
- Your rebellion against me is serious!
- You need Me.
- Trust Me.
This obviously leaves out a lot of detail, but the essence is there. Many of the ‘problems’ of Scripture fall into place, at least for me, with this basic outline. I’ll try to develop this in coming weeks. (See my caveat under “Pages” in the upper right column.)