Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fiery Love

"The actress Katharine Hepburn had little patience for actors who surrendered to 'the tortuous inspection of the Method,' Time says. 'You do what the script tells you,' she said. 'Deliver the goods without comment. Live it--do it--or shut up. After all, the writer is what's important.'

That goes for us Christians. There IS a script. If there wasn't, then we'd have to muddle through on our own, hoping by introspection and experiment to come up with something that might work. God hasn't left us to that method. He knew what we'd get into by sinning, and has made provision for us. Let's live it--do it--or shut up and quit pretending to follow Christ....

There is a common assumption today that whatever we are and wherever we are is somehow fixed and inevitable, while it is the Ancient Word that must be bent. For example, a woman cheats a university by plagiarizing and is refused a diploma. She decides she has a right to the university's credentials even though she happens to be a cheater, so she sues. Another woman chooses abortion. It is fixed and inevitable, in her mind, that what might turn into a baby must be got rid of, never mind the possibility that it's murder..... To be loving, caring, sharing, and daring in the Christian community too often means, for example, to tell [sinning Christians that it's 'ok' and that no one is blaming them].

'Blame'? The question here is who assigns blame? There is an Ancient Word, fixed, settled, which shall stand forever. The present situation is only grass which withers and flowers which fade. WE MUST QUIT BENDING THE WORD TO SUIT OUR SITUATION. IT IS WE WHO MUST BE BENT TO THAT WORD, OUR NECKS THAT MUST BOW UNDER THE YOKE. Love is no pleasing sentiment but a fiery law: THOU SHALT LOVE.... I can imagine it, all right, for I know the sinfulness of my own heart and how much dross is there to be purified by the Refining Fire, how excruciating it is for me to submit to the Word that never permits the least indulgence of self-pity, self-vindication, self-aggrandizement, self-justification, or any other form of the self whatsoever!....

We have laid many traps for ourselves by forgetting how sinful we are and how badly we need the Script. We get into a mess and we declare ourselves bankrupt. Nobody can make any moral claims against us anymore. We are, spiritually speaking, out of business, closed. We're doing our own thing, defying those who judge us, telling them it is always wrong to judge (which is in itself a judgment, but not one based on the Script).

A correspondent told me we should remember we've all broken vows, that [a person who divorced his/her husband/wife] was doing the best he could and that I shouldn't make matters worse by making him feel bad, that I should love and care about him instead of criticizing so harshly. He said divorce was common in Bible times; it's better to separate than to live in hatred; and why don't we all just try to support the good and stop condemning the bad?

My correspondent was muddled. Trying to be humble and sensible and loving, I'm sure, but muddled nevertheless. Let's try to be clear. When sinful people live in the same world, and especially when they work in the same office or sleep in the same bed, they sin against each other. Troubles arise. Some of those troubles are very serious and not subject to easy solutions. God knows all about them, and knew about them long before they happened. He made provision for them. His Son bore all of them--all grief, all sorrow, all disease, all sin--for US. By why on earth (or in Heaven) should he have done that? Why 'should' he? He shouldn't, but he did. BECAUSE OF LOVE. THE LOVE THAT IS STRONGER THAN SIN, STRONGER THAN DEATH.

And here is the profound lesson for us in the midst of our troubles. To rescue us out of them, Christ relinquished his rights. Are we his followers? Then let's take a hard look at what we have a right to expect from others. What do wives rightfully expect from their husbands? Love. 'Husbands, love your wives.' What do husbands rightfully expect from their wives? Submission and respect. 'Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord,' and 'the woman must see to it that she pays her husband all respect' (Ephesians 5:25, 22, 23). What if the husband doesn't do what he's supposed to? What if the wife doesn't? Face up to it--in this world nobody gets what he is reasonably entitled to. There is the world's 'solution' to this problem: fight. There is the Christian's: RELINQUISH. God did not get what he had a right to expect--the love and obedience of the creature he had made. Instead he got rebellion and disobedience. Adam and Eve made a general mess of everything, and we carry on making new messes daily.

We have a Script. 'Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature was his from the first, yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God but made himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave' (Philippians 2:5,6). What Christ gave up was not his divine nature (people are always worried about losing their 'personhood'), but the glory that nature entitled him to. He was God by nature and he voluntarily became a slave, so that the Father would give back to him in boundless measure the glory he had given up.

What a Script! What a lesson! Christianity insists always on the RIGHTS OF OTHERS. A Christian lays down his life to obtain them. If he asks, Have I no rights? the answer is 'The servant is not greater than his Lord.'

Selah.... And God help me when the next test comes. It probably won't be more than five minutes from now."

The above excerpt is from Elisabeth Elliot's book "On Asking God Why", a book I heartily recommend! It is chock full of spiritual truths that have really encouraged me and been very honest as well (not something I can say for many "modern" Christian books that speak of little more than health, wealth, and happiness). I hope you got something out of it, as I certainly did. I welcome your comments and thoughts! Even read it again if you want! It's definitely worth your time...

In Christ alone,

No comments: