September 29, 2011

Why Do You Want to be Like Jesus?

Never underestimate the diabolical dexterity of the human heart. We have an amazing ability to contort virtue into sin—all the while believing that we are doing what is noble. We have the ability to climb onto God’s throne while simultaneously believing that we are humbly beneath it.  

I read a sharp description of this in H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture as he was describing the views of Christians similar to Martin Luther. When we realize the depth of human sin, we start to see the wide variety of ways that we subtly try to replace God as God. Niebuhr writes:

The will to live as gods, hence without God, appears in man’s noblest endeavors, that is, those that are noblest according to human standards. Man whose business it is to reason exalts reason to the position of judge and ruler of all things; they call it the divine element in man. Those who have the vocation of maintaining order in society deify law itself—and partly themselves. The independent, democratic citizen has a little god inside himself in an authoritative conscience that is not under authority.

Thinkers believe the power of their thinking is King. Rule keepers think rules are King. Individualists think their opinions are King. But it is not only the rest of the world that plays these games inside their hearts.  Some people who desperately want to be Christ-like want that for the wrong reasons. Niebuhr continues:

As Christians we want to be the forgivers of sins, the lovers of men, new incarnations of Christ, saviors rather than the saved; secure in our own possession of the true religion, rather than dependent on a Lord who possesses us, chooses us, forgives us. If we do not try to have God under our control, then at least we try to give ourselves the assurance that we are on His side facing the rest of the world; not with the world facing Him in infinite dependence, with no security save in Him (155).   

Do you want to be kind because you realize that God has been kind to you, or is it because you desperately want to feel that you are a kind person? Or is it because you want other people to believe you are a kind person? It is ironic that many Christians—who think they are supremely loving—end up causing damage because they would rather be thought well of than to tell the truth in love. You can’t out-love God without distorting love.

Why do you want to be Christ-like? Is it so that you can be the merciful hero who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds? For many of us, we try to live that way because we see that as a more attractive self-image than the reality that we are pitiful and helpless from the self-inflicted wounds of our sin. 

The paradox is that we should try to be like Him but we should not try to be like Him. Seek to be Christ-like, but do not seek to be Christ. 

September 19, 2011

Barth Haiku

God the hidden one
Encountering man by grace
Not by human strength

Apprehension vain
Shipwrecked by efforts to know
God must possess us

Our capacity
By revelation taken
And again bestowed

And immanent qualities
Flip sides of one coin

Like the Trinity
Revealed, Written, and Proclaimed
Threefold Word of God

Russian communism
A flute concerto or shrub
Even a dead dog

On sentry duty
Barth shoots all with wrong password
Annihilates friend

No point of contact
Natural theology
Will turn you Nazi

Mysterious truth
The Word of God comes and goes
I have a mistress

-by Nate Archer
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