Have you ever wondered if your life mattered?
Think about it. There are billions of people on the planet and we’re spinning through the darkness of space, which simply seems unending. With this cosmic dance going on all around us, why on earth would our life count for something in a cosmos so immense?
Might I suggest that you matter because our Maker made you? As Mark Labberton puts it in his excellent book “Called,”
“We matter, and our calling matters, not because we’re the supreme test of anything but because we exist for the joy and satisfaction of our Maker, whose love alone enables us to flourish…we are ‘very good’ in God’s sigh because of bearing God’s image—not because we are fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) but just because we are.”
How joyous is this?
We matter because we’re God’s beloved. You matter because you are made by God and you are called to belong in a family.
“Has it ever occurred to you that 100 pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which one must individually bow. So 100 worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
There’s an old cliché that goes something like God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk. Have you heard some variation of that?
I think it really should be more of a suggestion than cliché because we like to talk more than anything. I know I try to listen, but I prefer to do the talking. That’s why in 2014, let’s stop talking!
We all have one (or twenty) people in our lives that talk at you instead of with you. Do you know someone like that?
Instead of discussing to learn something or to better understand other people, they ask you questions in order to prove a point or tell you why you’re wrong. Similar to “handshake guy” who only takes your hand in order to dominate the classic sign of equality among individuals, “talk at you guy” talks in order for you to listen.
Our modern world is so very loud. TV’s are droning on in the background of waiting rooms, everyone has an opinion on everything, and social media simply amplifies it all. Things are as noisy as ever! Yet, bucking the trend might be a worthwhile goal.
I’m not here to complain about a noisy culture, others can speak to that point. Instead, I want to speak to individuals within the society and offer a thought to ponder. Perhaps we need to listen to others more and understand where they’re coming from before we give our opinion.
I am certain that I have talked way too much and need to heed my own advice here. This year, I hope you join my aim of talking at people less and dialoguing with them more.
How do you listen more?
The last trait that I want to highlight from John Stott’s Radical Disciple is dependence.
Relying On Another
Dependence is something foreign to many within a hyper-individualistic society. Some might even see it as an attack against everything that made a nation great. Admittedly, while America was built on rugged individuals, earlier generations were also connected to their town and community groups. Although as a Radical Disciple is concerned, they will pursue after God and be dependent on him (as hard as this might be!).
Really though, this is tough. I get it. It would be nice to have everything figured out on my own. Yet, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer at church, dependence hits me like a bucket of cold water. In the Lord’s Prayer, we’re declaring that the Lord must provide, otherwise we’re up a creek without a paddle, boat, or mosquito repellant.
Stott movingly recounts his realizations that he was becoming more dependent on others as his body was breaking down. Old age took its toll on him and now he needed care from others. Yes, dependence on others and on the Lord can be foreign to us in the USA. But a refusal to place our dependence on others is not a sign of maturity, instead it’s immaturity. We need others, especially as a Radical Disciple ages.
Grabbing onto Dependence
Dependence is pivotal to life. We come into this world as a baby, totally dependent on others.
Have you ever noticed that?
Something that I have personally witnessed is that my little daughter is 100% dependent on our love and care. Perhaps other phases of life will allow others to be dependent on us, but eventually, a lot will go out of this world dependent on others again. We are made to be a burden to others, to rely on the strength of the community. Whether it’s the biological family or church family, we are called to a life of “mutual burdensomeness.” Paul would similarly exhort that we should “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
If we are to be a disciple of Jesus, let’s follow his pattern. He was dependent on his mother and father (the God of the universe had his bottom wiped!!) and would exit the world at the crucifixion totally dependent, pierced and body stretched out on the cross. Jesus still had his divine dignity though, so nothing will be lost from us except our pride. If it’s OK for the God of the universe, then perhaps it will be alright for the Radical Disciple of Jesus.
A Parting Note
A Radical Disciple is someone who is thoroughly committed to follow Jesus (not a Christian in name only). They’re a pupil learning under a master and they are a person radically committed to the cause of the Kingdom.
What other traits does a Radical Disciple embody?
Hello fellow fans of jeremydriley.com. My name is Jon and Jeremy asked me to write up two posts for him while he and Kristen acclimate to their new season of life. It is a huge privilege to write for him during this time. I’m sure he’s posted my bio somewhere so if you want to know more about me you can check that out.
On my blog I like to discuss topics of theology on a weekly basis. I cover different topics about Christian Theology that I feel help the average person better understand God and their relationship to him. I call it Theology Thursday (if you click on that you will see my original post and why it is important to study theology). With that in mind let’s get into today’s topic: Perichoresis.
Now if you’ve never heard that word before you might be thinking “what on earth does that mean?” I’m so glad you asked. Perichoresis is a combination of two distinct Greek words. The first word is peri which means around. The second word is chorein, which means to make room for another. According to Michael G. Lawler (some guy you’ve probably never heard of because without seminary I wouldn’t have) the combination of these two words gives the distinct picture of “the dynamic process of making room for another around oneself.” In essence this word picture is describing a constant dance (something Jeremy referenced in this post) that each member of the Trinity is constantly participating in, always moving and making room for the other members.
Dancers to the Core
To give a visual image to this while in seminary I took the picture on this post. By taking a picture with an extended exposure I was able to capture the idea of three individuals blending together as they constantly moved and made room for each other. At the same time you can still make out three distinct individuals. When you think of great ballroom dancing you can grasp this concept. Each partner must move in unison with the other; all the while exiting and entering space previously held by their partner. This dance, so to speak, is something God does and lives each and every day. It is at the core of his character. Three distinct persons intertwined in one being.
Another writer, Molly Marshall, puts it this way:
“Perichoresis depicts a relationship of mutuality in which persons draw their identity from being related to others. It is an ecstatic dance, in which the Trinitarian persons literally ‘stand outside themselves’ as they evoke the life of their divine counterparts. It is movement, an interplay of self-giving that calls forth reciprocal sharing of life. Perichoresis ‘grasps the circulatory character of the eternal divine life.’ This delightful divine choreography, which calls forth and deepens relationship.”
Relational to the Core
And now you must be thinking to yourself “so what? I really hope this Jon guy doesn’t want me to go around dancing all the time.” Well too bad for you because that is exactly what I want. Just kidding. That was sarcasm if the text didn’t translate that well. There are two basic implications of this idea. The first is that God is relational at his core and the second is that each member of the Trinity is constantly giving of himself within the Trinity. These two things are aspects of life that we can imitate. We can live in relationship for “It is not good that the man should be alone” and we can give of ourselves just as Christ did in his incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-11)
May you this week pursue relationship with others and give yourself away in the process. For this is who God is and who he created you to be.
Jon Varner is a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, the longest seminary name in the world. Like me (Jeremy) he is about to have his first child or has had it depending on when you read this. Unlike me he is going to have a boy. For him that is a good thing because the thought of a daughter scares the you know what out of him. He is passionate about people consistently pursuing God and this includes better understanding him. In the next few years he hopes to plant a church in California. He tweets @jcvarner and be sure to check out Jon’s blog!
Have you ever felt left behind or overlooked?
If you are anything like me, odds are you have been overlooked from time to time. I mean, come on, even Ben Affleck was snubbed by the Academy for a Best Director nomination!
In most cases, if we are honest, humans want to belong. I know I sure do. I want to love and be loved, and those moments of social awkwardness standing in the corner of a crowded room are draining. Sure, as an introvert, I’m comfortable being by myself for large patches of time, but being introverted does not mean that I am a hermit. I love being around others, and I thrive in smaller settings (I won’t necessarily shy away from large parties, I just know that my personality type requires times of renewal away from the noise). Still, I need other people to maintain sanity.
I like to be told that I’m wanted, and I like to feel included. Yet, when rejection comes, the sting hurts. Whether it’s a rejection of a relationship, job offer, school entrance, or varsity sports team, those moments hurt. Those moments sting and can cut deep.
In moments of rejection, I find comfort knowing that Jesus often went to the rejects. He often went to the marginalized and called them friends. Sure, he had followers who might have been of more powerful offices, but it seemed that he thrived in raising up the misfits of society. In the same way, Paul would write later on to the church in Corinth that God chose the foolish people to confound the wise. He chose the weak to shame the strong.
How incredible is that?
Jesus picked out a motley crew for his friends, and he chose the weak in a world of strength.
It is this message that gives me a measure of solace when things don’t turn out my way. When an opportunity could have been mine for the taking. When things slip away out of my grasp. I know that I’m still a part of that band of brothers and sisters, that group of weak and foolish people. That group of the overlooked and the left behind. It is in this hope that I hold onto when things fall apart.
Blessed are the overlooked, for they are in the motley crew of Christ.
(Part 4 of 4 on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic Life Together)
The last things that Bonhoeffer wanted to communicate to the community of faith were ministry and confession/communion.
The Ministries for All
Before we move forward, it is important to clarify that all people are part of the ministry, there is not a professional group and then the people in the church pews. If one is a part of the community of faith, then they are able to take part in these ministries.
For the sake of harmony in the church, we all have a “ministry” of holding our tongues. We shouldn’t speak about much that occurs in our thoughts because most of the time it is not helpful. This prohibition includes speaking to other people under the guise of helping them. Going to another person and telling them to pray for So and So because they are struggling with This and That is not a wise idea. That really is just gossip cloaked in a false coat of spirituality. Unfortunately, I have been a part of this gossip.
Leave Others Alone
Just as we should pray for others when we are alone, we should also let them be under God’s control instead of ours. For God did not give us a brother or sister to control, but instead they were given so we could find above him God the Creator.
Sit with that just for a little bit. Different people will model God’s image differently, because God in “his very freedom from me [He] made this person in his image,” not my own preconceived notion.
Listening and Speaking
We in the community have a ministry of humility and listening as well. In a world that doesn’t stop talking, I believe we need these ministries more than ever. Just as we listen to God’s Word, “the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” These concepts then roll into helping others, allowing God to interrupt our lives so that we can be there for other people. We can also bear others troubles and cares by the freedom we have in Christ.
Community also requires that we proclaim and speak God’s Word to others. When a brother or sister falls into sin, there is an imperative in God’s Word for others to call them back. “Nothing is more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.” We are all sinners- great ones. Now God calls us as sinners to Himself, there isn’t a need to pretend that we are any different. The grace of Christ confronts us with the truth that we need to come to him as a sinner.
Confessing our sins leads us to being closer to others, being closer to the heart of deep rooted communion. “Sin wants to remain unknown…In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.” Openness in the form of confession to others removes our pride. Certainly we need to confess to God, but confessing to another allows the sinner to not be isolated anymore, freeing them to enjoy God’s grace. “In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.”
It is through confession and repentance (turning from sin) that the community of faith can now enjoy the reminder of what God has done in Jesus. Joy in Christ and in the community of the redeemed can be found in the sacrament of communion, where we remember what he did for us. “The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the sacrament.” For it is in this act that we come together and are shaped as a person of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
I hope you enjoyed this this look into Bonhoeffer’s work “Life Together” and hope you pick up a copy of it. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this series and if there is anyone in particular you would like me to look into.
(Part 2 of 4 on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic Life Together)
Bonhoeffer viewed life differently. He saw that the core of ones faith was found in being steeped in God’s Word. Being rooted in the word shaped the day for the family and individual. He advocated in “Life Together” to have a dedicated time of song, Scripture, and prayer for the community. Since, in his mind, the family was the core, they should as a whole be formed together.
One of the points that I found interesting is Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on the Psalter. The Book of Psalms acted as a prayer book for the people, expressing emotions across a wide space of time. Through the praying and chewing of these psalms he has found that it is Jesus himself praying through them. “The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time.”
Through these ancient prayers, we learn what prayer means (standing on his Word and promises), what we should pray (moving in the emotions of the Psalter), and it teaches us to pray as a fellowship (praying together the same words, across space and time). Bonhoeffer is very encouraging in this. Praying the psalms teaches us how to pray, and the more we grow in this aspect, “the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”
Reading the Biblical books from front to back will confront the reader. It will put themselves into where God has “acted once and for all for the salvation of men.” Why should we do this? Because Scripture teaches us about ourselves. It will help steer us through the chaotic waters of life and will help correct our hearts when they stray. “It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s word.”
Prayers, songs, and readings must abound to form our lives in a world that is so influencing. We are so shaped by constant advertisement that the community of faith needs another influencing factor in their lives. Bonhoeffer’s response is that we need to be shaped by a whole host of things, highlighting church service, work, eating, and more into play.
For Bonhoeffer, it seemed like all of life was under the rule and reign of Jesus. “Thus every word, every work, every labor of the Christian becomes a prayer.” Everything, even sleep, can be done with our focus on God in Christ. Life Together is found by being united in Jesus and enjoying him through fellowship with others.
How have you been encouraged in community?
“This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer at his death
How would I live if I knew that the government hated what I was doing? How would I act if I knew that living in the Kingdom of God and walking in that manner could very well mean my painful demise? These are tough questions to think about, yet a simple pastor went through a time like that. He exited this world with the conviction that he needed to do what was right, even if the consequences proved fatal. That man was the modern day martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who lived under one of the most evil regimes in modern history. Even though he lived under the Third Reich, he chose to not be complacent in those dark times and keep his head down. Bonhoeffer chose to remain faithful to God even when others in the church compromised their message. He was convinced that he could not remain silent about the evils that the state was performing. In fact, to be silent in his mind meant that you were complicit in those heinous acts.
With the church either hiding or condoning the acts of the Nazis, Bonhoeffer sensed the need to train young men to be faithful proclaimers of the Word of God. As a result of this, he formed an underground seminary to accomplish his goal. Out of this experience, the marvelous little book “Life Together” was born, encapsulating his view on life in Christ and community.
Living in fellowship with other Christians is a non-negotiable. For Bonhoeffer, it was a good thing when people who belonged to Jesus lived in unity. For people who lived between the “death of Christ and the Last Day,” it was and is a privilege to be in fellowship with others. Those who might not have the opportunity (the sick, imprisoned, solo missionary) miss the connection with others (yet those who are alone still have Christ). If it was at all possible, physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy.
Christian community is more than a place. As he wrote in Life Together, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.” A Christian needs others because of Jesus. They come to others only through Jesus, and they (in Jesus) have been “chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”
To understand this train of thought, one must know that those who are in Christ are not good in themselves. They have been justified (declared righteous) and had their filth wiped clean in God’s eyes. Any good, or righteousness, they do comes from God. It is an alien (other) righteousness. If they were asked where his/her salvation was, they would point not to themselves but to the Messiah. They would point to Jesus, who would assure them of their salvation.
If you’re still with me, you may ask, “Jeremy, why the journey into theology and theologizing?” And that’s a great question! The reason I raise this is because from Bonhoeffer’s perspective, people needed to be rooted in Jesus before they could be rooted in a community.
Fellowship is founded in the “alien righteousness” of Jesus. Community springs from the message of justification of humanity through grace alone. In this context, Christians will long for community. Without the intermediary Jesus, we would neither know God nor peace. And we would never be able to connect with others in community without Jesus. For Jesus is our brother and through union to him we develop brotherly love for others. When we received forgiveness, we could provide forgiveness towards others. In other words, the more we received, the more we could give.
Community and the love of the other allows for the freedom to meet the person as Christ’s own. They are not made in my image, so I am free to enjoy being with that person. If that person is in Christ, then I am able to respect who they are as a person and let God work on them as he is so inclined.
Lastly, the body of Christ must be understood as catholic, it is global and universal in scope. One community has not arrived at perfection, instead it is just one part of a broader world, of a broader church. Though the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” might not meet all at once, it is connected by something more. The community of Christ is bound together by faith, not by experience. It is through him and by faith in him that unity can be found among the diverse church.
Next: Life in Community
Busy. Hurry. iPhone.
These words define us. Well, maybe a good portion of us. I know it hits close to home for me!
I was stepping outside on my lunch break when I noticed a line of people exiting from the restaurant on the main level of the building. There were five people, all walking in a row with their collective faces staring into their phones. It was more amusing than anything, because they looked like a group of ducks waddling towards a lake. But you’d think being immersed in our phones so often they would want to take a quick break as they walked from the downstairs cafe to the elevator. It would only be a few feet away, a few seconds really. Isn’t it possible for us to unglue and be present in the world around us?
I wonder if our (I am included) obsession with having a Smartphone is having a detrimental impact on being present where we are and who we are with. I wonder if acknowledging whoever is on the other end of the call, text, email or message is better than noticing the person walking next to you. I think physical presence needs to be reclaimed, rejecting the chain of the small screen as we walk a few steps amidst our neighbors.
The mobile phone is an incredible tool, don’t get me wrong. People in Africa can transfer money to each via texts and a lost person can find the nearest highway. Those are great things! Yet, I think we lose a little bit of ourselves if we do not relate with the person in front of us. When we rush to acknowledge the phone call of someone else and ignore the person we are having coffee with, that, my friends, needs to stop.
God made us physical beings. He made us and then said it was good. Our physical-ness means that we need others. We need people in front of us. A phone call can be great, but wouldn’t you agree that the person-to-person communication in the skin is so much better. So much more satisfying. We are made for community. So I say we have communion by being with others in real life and unplug for moments of connection with real people.