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August 22, 2004

Comments

Kristen C

I think you hit the proverbial nail on the Christian head, on this one, Greg. Of course I don't think God is up there with his clipboard checking off my 'acts for the Kingdom' (which, if an actual list, would be a sorry one) but there's gotta be more to it than just getting up, going to work, going to church, trying again, as Tim explains. I think we're built to deeply desire "the heights and the depths", as Van Aucken said, and a life full of mediocrity can only lead to resignation or worse, depression.

Alas, everyone has to decide what defines a mediocre life for them...and have the courage to ask God to lead them beyond it.

This is a huge discussion of vast importance, in my lowly opinion.


Tim

Yeah, I agree. And I love the way you articulate it--everyone has to decide what defines a mediocre life for them. I think if churches do anything at all they can force this conversation (if they are worth their salt). I just work in this job and I can tell you that most only tip-toe up to the water and maybe listen in on the conversation. Maybe.

Jesus said something about playing a song for people and them not dancing. Sometimes I think I'm one of the dopes with a stupid grin on my face sitting at the tables in the back of the room tapping my foot a little bit. Maybe I should take a dance course of somethin.'

Caleb

WARNING: nit-picking ahead.

I've always thought that the parable about guys showing up late for work isn't even about when individual people come to the work of the Gospel.

Isn't it about the proclamation of good news to Gentiles, even though Israel had been around a lot longer and worked a lot harder in obedience to God's demanding call? If read this way, the parable shouldn't be taken literally as a story about how much work individuals have to do to "get saved" or something like that ...

On a less nit-picky note, I agree with the post entirely, but it's much easier to say that than to actually bring my "yeah, buts" out of hiding and dispose of them. (I loved that image, by the way.)

So I also agree with Kristen that this is a huge discussion, one that could and should occupy every individual's lifetime.

greg

Caleb,

Great stuff. I tend to agree with your interpretation. Makes perfect sense.

I don't think it's easy to bring them out or dispose of them. I think it's necessary; I think it's an involved process; and I think it's what discipleship is all about. I'm only voting that we start doing it instead of just "resting on grace."

Troy Caldwell

Greetings to all.
My daughter, Kristen Courter, invited my comments on this discussion, so forgive the old guy's intrusion. Why she thinks I or my wife have something to say, I don't know; maybe it's because we are so old.
Indeed, the conversation reminds me of talks I had as a 20-something with many of my friends...actually, for me, it was more of 17-22 something because I decided early what my zeal-inspired form of Mother-Theresaish-Praxis was going to be. Then, thereafter, I tended to hang with other people of similar ilk--seminary students, Christian medical students, etc. who had all devoted themselves to one form or another of serious discipleship. We were fortunate to have chosen or been called to professions that included potential acts of Christian service. (I'm a doctor/psychiatrist.)
Of course, whatever the acts of “corporal mercy” one chooses to undertake inspired by their love of God, they have to keep the economic and family engines going. Being a responsible earner and lover of a family is part of one's discipleship too. And as a 17-22 year old something my friends and I perhaps never appreciated fully was how much of a full time job those two tasks of discipleship would be.
I make this point mainly to underscore the idea that, like the World War II encouragement to women who waited for their husbands and sons to return from war, “They also serve who sit and wait.” We don't necessarily have to be front line soldiers like Mother Theresa to be living worthy lives of love and discipleship. Love expressed in family life and work done “in the spirit” is discipleship, indeed. In addition, we can express further acts in everyday church and community services that seem less self-sacrificial than that of Mother Theresa.
Balance of one's energies is needed. And our tuning into the Spirit through our inner disciplines, can help us find that balance that is higher than the mediocre yet not out on a limb financially and interpersonally. Indeed, the ministry of Jesus was accomplished in just this way. He had the inward times, then he saw what the Father was doing (John 5:5) when it was needed in the outer world.
My point in all this is, spiritual ambition to be “like Mother Theresa” can be a trap. So can judging another's discipleship as deficient when it seems mediocre to you. (My young people's group in high school was very guilty of that toward the adults for a time and had to be corrected by the youth director.) Instead, it seems a key to achieving what each writer is desiring, an excellence of following the Lord, is to keep getting to know him, learn to hear his promptings and voice, and then truly do what is his calling to you, whatever degree of sacrifice that may entail.
To use an extended passage from 2 Peter 1 to illustrate:
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. 5 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The writer who likes AA is correct. Like the verses above suggest, we add one virtue and another and another in order to “make it.” We often must “fake it until we make it” through a process of struggle and effort at virtue. And the Twelve Step programs are the best organized approaches I know of for doing this. In Christian spirituality tradition, this is called “The Purgative Way.” Grace justifies us freely without much effort on our part, and God really does love us. But he/she does expect struggle and effort in order for us to grow. Easy or cheap grace, sanctification is not.

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