This is a re-post reflecting on a couple of things. First, Luther's saying: "God doesn't need your good works. Your neighbour does."
Second, Dave K's observation that, post-resurrection, no-one summarizes the law with "love God and love neighbour" but only with "love neighbour" - read it, it's very stimulating.
A friend recently told me of some "higher life" Christians he met who would chant together:
"I refuse, I refuse, I refuse to come down from heaven to deal with earthly realities."
They were horrible people to be around. Their marriages were a mess. And it was impossible to get at their sins because they were supposedly "hidden" from it all at God's right hand.
Well you do have to admire their sense of unbreakable union with Christ. I will give them that.
But you've also got to question the kind of Christ they feel united to.
Isn't the true Jesus exactly the kind of Person who does come down from heaven to deal with earthly realities? Isn't that His eternal glory? And therefore, doesn't Paul constantly take us from that secure union and then into those battles with the flesh?
Never for the sake of our union. But always from that union and in the power of it. How can union with this Christ mean anything else?
Jesus said: "For their sake I sanctify myself." (John 17:19).
Our response should not be "And likewise, Lord, for your sake I sanctify myself." No. There can be no payback here.
But there is a response to Christ's work. And it does involve our sanctification. It means receiving Christ's setting-apart-of-us, and passing it on in costly ways - just as Jesus passed it on to us in the most costly way.
We do engage with the mess, not for God's sake but for our neighbour's. Jesus doesn't need my sanctification, but my wife does. Desperately. And the way I glorify the other-centred Christ is not to pay Him back with godliness but to pass it on in sacrificial love. "Hidden in Christ" does not mean hidden from the battle. Christ leads me into the battle because He's adopted me into His kind of other-centred life.
So, for God's sake, don't grow up for God's sake
But, for God's sake, do grow up for your neighbour's sake.
10 thoughts on “(For God’s Sake Don’t) Grow Up For God’s Sake”
Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
And the opposite is true of many others.
I think your 'questioning' is spot on, Glen. So much 'heavenly' spirituality amounts to a yearning for a 'virtual' (gnostic) apotheosis at best, but our Sabbath Lord inhabited (was refreshed in and made holy) the 7th day of creation - the ramifications of that are huge (!), echoed every time we think about or pray the Lord's prayer - it's that marriage of heaven and earth that is cardinal... How can we so miss it - point blank, in Him, evidenced in flesh! The truth is creation is yearning for that sanctification, that glorification, and thanks be to God, it was perfected in the 'normandy landing' of the cross... The finished work is going to be seen, and we'll be standing on terra firmer, as Job prophesied, which will forever be underpinned by His redeeming work, when it does.
This goes hand in hand in the idea of "going to Heaven". I won't pick a bone with the use of the phrase, but the many a time it's articulated as if we will cease to be humans and be "spirits". This whole idea totally negates the resurrection!
Same with our loving and ethics. The Spirit of our King is all around, moving hearts, exposing darkness, healing wounds and making things new. We ought to be the same.
Sadly, it's often been the 'big' theologians who have got this one wrong, ascribing to a dualism that is deadly. Even Calvin is prone to talk of salvation primarily in terms of the soul (Institutes I, 14.2). at the expense of creation and the body, and Augustine had weaknesses here as well. Paul's teaching in Corinthians and Romans on the nature of eternal life clearly needs to be restored as a touchstone on these matters.
Thank you for this Glen, and for all you do through this blog exalting Jesus. I am just preparing a short bible study/talk for kids club tomorrow night on the friendship of David and Jonathan, 1 Samuel 18-20. Very striking is the costly love of Jonathan which works out practically in being willing to risk his life for David. How easy it would have been for him to take a free pass because of his relationship to Saul. And what conflict and turmoil there must have been in Jonathan's mind as he watched his father hatred for David turn upon him nearly pinning him to the wall with a spear. And of course this shadows the one who embodied love itself, John 15:13 "Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends".
Not because of the law's commands, but for Christ's sake, love Christ, who is altogrther lovely, and in whom all fulness dwells.
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
"As long as Christ & the world are conceived as two realms bumping against and repelling each other, we are left only with two options. Giving up on reality as a whole, either we place ourselves wanting Christ without the world of the world without Christ. In both, we deceive ourselves. There are not two realities, but only one - God's reality revealed in Christ in the world - this embraces all". Dietrich Bonhoeffer
John B and Howard - I've been thinking about both your comments a lot. I think my post lacks an understanding of the vicarious humanity of Christ - an offering to the Father in which we participate by the Spirit. We take the Ultimate Psalmist's prayer onto our own lips and enjoy His communion with the Father.
In other words the problem is not fundamentally one of direction (us to God or us to world) but of Christlessness. He holds it all together as Bonhoeffer's quote so brilliantly demonstrates
Thanks OldAdam, Cal and Kyle too :)
Having just finished the new Bonhoeffer biography, it's fascinating to consider what he was unpacking in those last months in prison regarding the coming of 'religion-less christianity' to the West, which clearly wasn't an emptying of theology, but a filling of the world with Christ. I find it fascinating that this was the very time that writers like Lewis and Tolkien were about to do just this through their fiction (the ramifications of that have been stunning), and, especially in the case of Lewis, this opening a platform in a wider context for his overtly Christian works. I think this says a great deal about seeing the world as the 'theatre' in which we have a great deal to say and to do - it's often just a case of helping people see that Christ is actually front and centre in so much (actually all) of what we define as wonderful and mundane.