Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unifying the Mind Divided In Christian Life

“A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Nor, on the other hand, is it interested in being free, in acting perversely just to prove its independence. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; these are ‘itself’. It acts, not according to the rules, but according to the circumstances of the moment, and the ‘well’ it wishes to others is not security but liberty.”
— Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity (p. 132)
In Christian life, we often find ourselves no farther along the journey of purity and piety than those mature would-be-Christians who have no allegiance to Christ, whatsoever. They seem as gracious as we are, peace-loving and wise, aware of their purpose, connected to people, morally adroit, and even better positioned for admiration because they’re not pigeon-holed as hypocritical or judgmental. They’re considered and called beautiful persons.
As Christians, we tend to fall for the trap of needing to be seen as set apart in our holiness rather than knowing we are set apart, as a matter of who we are and not for what we do or don’t do.
Christian conversion doesn’t solve the problem of the self.
It’s the acknowledgement of the sinful self in the benefit received through the acceptance of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice — the grace of God as the final restitution of the sinner to the restoring God.
Conversion highlights the problem of the self, and the need to depend on God if progress is to be made on the journey with God.
The journey to God made, which is conversion, the journey with God commences.
Now comes cognisance of the real problem within the problem. There is a barrier that must be overcome; we use our flesh to try to conquer what only reliance on the Spirit will attain.
In Watts’ language, we have to get over the “I” and that’s probably the revelation that humbles our spiritual pride most. This is the admission that we’ve not been as miraculously transformed as we’d liked to have been.
Sure, in Christ, we are new creations, but we’re not suddenly cured of sin. In fact, we’ve only begun the journey of reconciling that we’ll be fallen sinful persons for the rest of our lives. And what is against us are incorrect assumptions non-Christians make: “Well, he/she is not a very good Christian, are they?” That’s the point. There’s no such thing, and Christians more ought to know and accept this than anyone. The irony is it’s only the converted that understand, so it’s to hypocrisy we will continue to be judged.
If we’re to accept that the Christian life is not so much the negation of the self, but the affirmation of others within the purposes God gives us, then we would lose the prison in finding the key.
This is the concept that the self is subsumed always in something bigger than itself. Indeed, and ideally, the self has become nothing, and can see nothing of itself, for the everything that exists beyond itself.
This is what I think John the Baptist is getting at when he sees he is the friend of the Bridegroom, Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) John’s purpose had crystal clear clarity only when Jesus came.
When we arrive at this point in our journey with God, we don’t simply obey because it will go well for us if we do.
We obey because our lives are no longer about us; we see that our life is only “abundant” when others’ lives are, and when we’re lost in our mission that’s when we’re finally found. But we run off track if we don’t encompass this:
It’s not a service to others
to make us feel good.
It’s a service to others
where we think less about ourselves.
To this we’re called heavenward: the mind is one in passionate pursuit of everything it perceives of love for the people and problems of which it’s aware.
Serving others without thinking about what we gain, therefore, is freedom and, ultimately, Jesus’ abundant life.
That service, for the simple want of doing it, is what unifies the mind divided and exemplifies a mind integrated.
Serving unifies the mind divided, healing us, as God also heals those served.

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