A Meditation On:
If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. ... Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:15; 25-26)
Once, Jerome had a dream. He stood before God and God asked him, "Who are you?"
"I'm a Christian." Jerome replied.
"You are a liar. You are not a Christian," said God.
The dream changed Jerome's life. He became a great bible translator and a leader of the church: St. Jerome, translator of the Vulgate.
Jerome thought he was a Christian, but by name alone. He didn't realize true faith expresses itself through righteous action. This type of action, however, does not stem from a dogmatic lifestyle simply bordered by do's and don'ts. Rather, it arises through cultivating living with God.
We all of us begin life in a sickening movement against God.
Christianity is more than making a claim on a name or faith tradition. It must run deeper than words.
I move toward God on a spiritual wave of hypocrisy. I lose my temper, and demand quiet. I stress, and complain about others stressing out. I say, "I'm a follower of Jesus," and yet the way I live can often sound like a clanging cymbal. Am I Jerome?
Is the modern Church Jerome, I wonder? Defined by ...
repetitive, loveless, cheap sex ...
a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage ...
frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion ...
paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants ...
a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved ...
divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits ..
the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival ...
uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions ...
ugly parodies of community
(Gal. 5:21, The Message)
I define love. I define patience. I define kindness. And I do so, in a way that benefits me. I crash hard into the rocks of the God-coast. I have not come any closer to him. I am only good at making a big splash and receding into the abyss. I have my glory. And it lives in the lies I live.
Is the Church just as individualistic and reckless as I am? Shouting past authority. Dividing the glory among ourselves.
The power of living for God only comes through the rigor of living with God. The with. It is difficult. Abiding with God demands patience, silence of being, restraint, bearing burdens in quiet, eschewing the language the world would have us communicate with.
The church, too, must carry itself in such a way. So many in leadership pursue innovation, influence, a presence. But no one possessed so powerful a presence than Christ did when he stood on The Pavement, silent before Pilate. His lack of words carried an abundance meaning. And then he died.
Movement toward God, a continual with, will surely demand more than many of us want to give. But it is in the giving up, that we live past our lies.
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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.