Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, November 17, 2014

Smiling Grimly

[B]ut as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:  … by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; … as dying, and behold, we live; … as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.  2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Perhaps nowhere is it written so explicitly as here:  the true creed of the Christian.  This is not for ministers and missionaries alone.  All believers ought to live so as to deny their accusers any ground on which to stand.  If we are persecuted, we ought to be sure we are persecuted for the sake of truth, purity, humility, meekness, and obedience to the Word of God. 

Sooner or later, when tested, what is in our hearts will be manifested in our lives.  A heart full of bitterness and resentment and ingratitude will, despite our best efforts at suppression, eventually boil over in and be voiced.  On the other hand, no matter how hard the outer shell, under pressure, Christ will be exposed in the Christian. 

At the moment when it seems that all is lost and that we are bound to die, we are surprised by the life of Christ released and breaking forth.  In the darkest depths of suffering and anguish, we come to the end of ourselves and find inexplicable joy.  We may never be happy again in this life, but we will rejoice always in Christ.  We turn loose of everything in this world to find that we have not only lost nothing but gained everything.  It is the contradiction and near absurdity of our faith, the wry, smiling, all-knowing foolishness of God.

I have said, in moments of great pain, that surely life must be a joke.  There is some truth to that, but it is not the sick joke of the nihilist.  It is a grand and glorious joke, and we are in on it.  It is not a joke to those in hell, but that is because they took the wrong things too seriously.  Our love for the lost must make us sorrowful for their sakes, yet we cannot help being overwhelmed by exultation of the deliverance all may know.  We rightly grieve when a beloved face is taken from us, but we rejoice knowing we will see them again where there is no parting. 

When age or infirmity or circumstances leave us weakened and hemmed in, we may look back on youth and health and past opportunities with longing and a little regret, yet we know this is the path that takes us to the place of eternal youth, beauty, and liberty.  Our understanding brings a little of that beauty into the present to put a shine on a wrinkled face and make us glory in our weaknesses.   

Ours is a life of paradox.  There’s no way around it.  Sin grieves us – in ourselves and in others, not because we hate them but because we love them, and we know too well the destruction that awaits those who walk that road.  Do I look like a fool screaming at someone to get out of his house?  Perhaps.  But it is afire.  Love motivates me.  I weep that all do not know the joy of the Lord.


julie said...

Sin grieves us – in ourselves and in others, not because we hate them but because we love them, and we know too well the destruction that awaits those who walk that road.

Yes, just so. I've had a few conversations lately about the idea of "love the sinner, hate the sin," and how at some point, the two are inseparable. I like this take much better.

mushroom said...

Yes, not that the sinner can't manage to really piss me off sometimes. And sometimes I have to get away from them for my own good.

John Lien said...

Oh man, this post hit me. I blew my cool this weekend yelling at a hunter who wanted to fetch his dogs off my place. You see, he didn't deliberately let them loose to drive the deer through our place. They just sort of ended up on our place but they weren't hunting there. Yeah, right. He swears that he didn't let loose that pack that came down our driveway a couple hours earlier. Maybe he was telling the truth. I just let him be at the receiving end of 16 years of frustation of dogs ruining our weekends every deer season and NOBODY asks for permission. That, and earlier last week I discovered scrappers had snuck back on Alvin's place and stole a 1000 gallon steel tank that I was going to use. So I was a little edgy already.

So, I suck. I was tested and failed.

I want to see that hunter again so I can apologize -I'll probably run into him again since he is local. I won't let his dogs run the place but I still want to apologize.

I'll always be an outsider.

mushroom said...

It's hard. I am guilty, too.

You don't suck. It's one small battle in a long, long war. That's one thing I've noticed about God: He keeps throwing us the same pitch as long as we keep swinging and missing. I've missed some over and over and over.

In your defense, they should ask permission and respect private property.

John Lien said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Yes, but where I always fail is in the calm communication of the truth. I've been thinking on it. I hate confrontation so when I have to I need to get worked up and in a worked up frame of mind I can't calmly deliver the truth.

mushroom said...

We suffer from the curse of the introvert.