Posts Tagged ‘community’

Followup — Studying to Serve, or, On Not Being a Self-Centered Idiot

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

It occurs to me that when I wrote my last post, the basic thought I had in mind got lost in all the reflecting.

Self-centered teaching: Go off, think allegedly insightful, ground-breaking, epiphanic thoughts.  Then gather an audience and broadcast your views.  Stop there.  (Analogy:  A radio.  Tossing spaghetti against the wall, but not really caring if it sticks.  Example: Arrogant, unconcerned professors.)

Christ-like teaching: Because you’re motivated by genuine affection & concern for people, you get involved with people’s lives.  You make time.  Intimacy happens.  You might be a lecture-style teacher, or a blogger, or a radio host–but your life also includes discipleship relationships. You meet with people, you know what’s going on in their lives, you’re concerned about them and their growth.  You follow up.

Why this is on my mind: I’ve been realizing that some aspects of my personal relationships really stink.  Or are underdeveloped.  I want to change–to see all my relationships be more natural, friendly, affectionate, generous, discerning, and humble.  In the area of truth/teaching/doctrine/understanding, I want to include a genuine posture of hearing & receiving.  I want my speaking/teaching/encouraging to come out of an integrated concern for people.  I want to be able to talk about these things naturally, conversationally.

Coincidentally, Frank Turk just posted something this morning on a related subject (comment #6).  He included a highly appropriate verse, so here it is:

Paul, talking to his protege Timothy:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Tim. 1:5-7)

To Know God Better

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

The name of this blog, of course, is a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

The context is 1 Cor. 12-13, on the primacy of love and community in the church. Paul discusses spiritual gifts in chapter 12, how there are many gifts and types of service empowered by God for the common good. (The importance of community was on is mind; he had just chastised the Corinthian church in chapter 11 for the way they profaned the Lord’s Supper with divisions. Instead of being an expression of each believer with Christ and with each other, they ate for their own bellies and they got drunk; those with food ate their own meals while others went hungry.) The whole body is to be joined together so that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Each type of service is needed, whether “humble” or “great”. Some are gifted to help others, or to administration, while others are gifted to teach, to heal, to work miracles.

And yet, he says in chapter 13, each gift is a vain and worthless thing if divorced from love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (v. 1) And even great acts of charity are made meaningless if done without love: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned but have not love, I gain nothing.” (v. 3) Love holds a unique in the world; it will never cease, through all eternity. It has the ultimate staying power; it will last to the end, when Christ comes and this fallen world passes away, when every partial, passing, and imperfect good we now know will be consummated and fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth.

Love and community is a taste of heaven. The sacrifice of Christ was not to give people their ticket out of hell; his sacrifice was to create a unified body of serving believers, of disciples and followers. We are made in the image of God, but fallen and twisted; He transforms us to fulfill the image of Christ, showing mercy and love to those who have rejected Him and lived in rebellious selfishness; He saves us by grace through faith, not based on our own efforts to be good. Salvation is freely given to sinners, but we are His workmanship, created for the very purpose of walking in good works, in service and generosity and love. We cannot earn forgiveness, but we can live transformed lives, working out our salvation through His power. We can be one, even as the Son and the Father are one, as Jesus prayed for the disciples in John 17.

The unity and community that we can know is a taste of the nature of God; community is so fundamental that it is part of His eternal being; He is three Persons, eternally knowing and loving one another. The more we understand love, the better we know God.

And so it is that Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12–after saying that love never ends, as some things will–that, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” The promise of the gospel is not fundamentally about punishment and reward; eternal life is not a matter of never-ending physical pleasures; it is not about the feasts and 70 virgins that some men die to acquire; it is not about the self-centered bliss that some Christians seek. God so loved the world that those who believe in Him should have eternal life–and Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is knowing God. The ultimate death is not to know Him. The heinousness of idolatry–in all its forms, such as greed & materialism–is that we expend our focus and energy on things that do not matter. It is a tragedy to waste a life created in the image of God for service. We can fritter our lives away, devoted to money, to watching television, to sex, to reading fiction, to science, to alcohol, to drugs, to a romantic relationship, to the next exciting thrill, to food, to fame, to fortune. These things may have good in them, but it is a waste of a life to devote to them all our focus, our time, and our energy. They may be part of a life worth living, but they must not be the whole. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And so, I come to the purpose of this blog: To know and to show God better, in whatever ways I can. It is to share what I learn, to organize my thoughts, to provide resources, to summarize what I study, and to offer up my own best efforts at understanding God and the world. We are called to service, to fruitful labor, to live for the community; I can point to very little in my past or present life where I have answered this call.

This is one thing I can do. I want this blog to be an expression of my own longing to live out whatever grace God has given me. I’ll post a variety of things–anything I’m thinking about, reading, learning. I’ll post simple quotes from books I’m reading, and sometimes I’ll add my own thoughts. I’ll summarize some nugget of information from a subject I’m studying. I’ll present my own observations, whatever they’re worth. And I’ll link to meaningful, interesting, and helpful entries on other blogs.

I want to do what I can to wipe away grime from the glass through which we see God, to wrestle with confusions and uncertainties, to see more clearly the light of who He is, and to be transformed to reflect that light more brightly. I want to reach the end, and to hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Bear with me. We’ll see how it goes.