Center Point

It seems that good often appears to be the center point between two evil extremes.

cruelty————–> kindness <————– overindulgence

 It gives the illusion that what is required for goodness is to strike a balance–and the illusion that extremes were the great evil.

 And I say it is an illusion. If good were really the balance point between two evils, then good would require evil to be relative to, in order to exists. God never gave the impression that his Kingdom was the Great Middle Ground, or the Perfect Compromise, or the Most Reasonable Balance.

This perception is understandable, and is based on the fact that no evil is an original, but rather a twisting and breaking of its origin–good seems a center point, because evil had some good as its center point:

Evil flees from good in many an opposite direction.

cruelty <————– kindness ————–> overindulgence.

And we are given to running straight past the guy holding the light and back into shadows on the other side.

Thinking we are running towards good, we are really only running away from a particular evil. What is required is not to strike a balance, but to strike a match.

And don’t suppose that I’m especially good at spotting the burning of the flame. I still see it through a veil, darkly. May God touch all our eyes.

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Participating in your own Perfection

I should like to preface my words today with a quote from CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and  joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so  God let us off.  Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work.

He goes on to say that if you do not find his personal theory or illustration helpful, to feel free to drop it. I found it quite helpful, wonderful actually, and would suggest your read the whole of his chapter, “The Perfect Penitent.” But my point with that is, I have just this night past stumbled upon a (slightly) new (to me) perception of the Atonement and the Christian walk, and I would like to say the same thing of my own illustration of that eternal matter. If it works for you, lovely; if it doesn’t–ah well, it was only words and pictures.

All that being said:

Think of Christ taking on all our sin-guilt. Think of Christ imputing his righteousness to us. Imagine him effacing Adam’s likeness and stamping his image in its place on our very spiritual genome.

Now, further imagine that, in that timeless moment on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth visited every single instance of sin in the whole of time; every rotted flower on the twisted tree he was uprooting.

Now bring it home a bit, and imagine him visiting every single instance of sin, of imperfection before God and the law, that you have ever committed and will ever commit. Diving into your timestream like a bodyguard taking a bullet, slamming you out of the way and stepping into your place at every single point at which you acted out of the twistedness of your spirit.

Imagine him pushing you out of the way, facing your moment of temptation, weakness, and brokenness, facing your nature and nurture and personal demons, and acting in absolute perfection. Replacing that moment of sin with an act of absolute righteousness.

And then imputing to you the righteousness inherent in his act, while taking upon himself the guilt inherent in yours.

Now your life appears before God to be a string of perfect acts and perfect thoughts and perfect decisions; Christ’s perfect thoughts and acts and decisions. (Oh, he also sees the material reality, of course, but such seeming paradoxes don’t seem to bother a mind so much bigger and smarter than ours that stands outside his created space-time continuum as well as throughout it.)

But here we find something interesting, because Christ gives us a further opportunity. That righteousness is on our account, so to speak, but we have been given a marvelous gift: the opportunity to participate in our undeserved righteousness.

Look back on a specific sin you have committed, perhaps one that nags at you particularly. Then think of Christ crucified bursting into that moment, pushing you aside, and acting in your place, doing the perfect thing you were incapable of doing, and remember that that deed, Christ’s deed, is the one that will be counted to your spiritual account.

But now look ahead. Watch for when next you face a moment of temptation, of weakness, of brokenness. The next time you come smack up against your worst nature and nurture and personal demons.

Remember that Christ has come here already. He got there ahead of you, in one sense. He dove into your life, pushed you out of the path of oncoming death, and acted perfectly. Already.

There was a sinful action, maybe an unavoidable sin, sitting right there in your path, but Jesus already dove into your place, right there, right then, in your future and present as well as your past, and did the right thing.

Now here is the wonder, if all that wasn’t wonder enough! Here is our glorious chance: we are permitted to work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling.

He has pushed you out of your own way in some grander Reality than ours, in his very Kingdom. Now let his Kingdom come! Let him dive into your moment of weakness, let him sweep aside your fractures and your fallings-down, and let the reality that God the Father sees in your life become the reality of the material world.

Allow the Kingdom to enter more fully into the space-time continuum through you; allow Christ’s perfect actions not only to cover you in the Eternal Reality beyond time, but to animate your spirit and mind and body within time itself!

Not only will he write over our life in crimson, so to speak, but he will press that pen into our little hand and, holding it, move it so we can form the letters ourselves, our hand growing stronger and more precise under his direction until the letters and words that come so naturally to him might also come naturally to us. That his Nature might become ours.

When you fail, when you fall, remember that your imputed righteousness is complete.

But when next you face temptation, when you would naturally act our of your brokenness, would act outside of the Father’s perfect will, would quite naturally nurse your wrath until morning light, would quite naturally speak when your ought to keep silent, or keep silent when you know you should speak… when you would do the cowardly thing, or the prideful thing, or the impatient thing, or the unloving thing, remember:

Christ has been there. Right there, in that moment, he’s been there. And hasn’t done that.

He’s gone ahead of you, taken your exact temptations and exasperations and pains and torments and tiredness and headaches and habits and histories and peeves and breaking points, all those things that it would be entirely impossible for you to handle with grace and perfection, and he’s already handled them for you. He has already acted with grace and perfection in those myriad shattered moments, and now you can too. He  has made them whole.

Let him push you out of the broad way. Let him push you out of the path of your own destruction. Get out of his way, and let him let you take a part in the very perfection he’s attributed to you.

The Wisdom of Loki

KNEEL!

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state?

It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation.

The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.

You were made to be ruled.

In the end, you will always kneel.”

So much truth, Loki. One might almost think you wise. But like all Tricksters, you twist the truth. And for your purposes, you twist it foolishly.

Something is missing. Something you seem ignorant of. One vital element of our makeup.

Yes, we were made to be ruled. But we were made to choose whom we will serve.

You see this throughout history. Yes, many followed Robert the Bruce that they might be free of England’s rule. But in that very act, they submitted themselves, they subjugated themselves, to Robert the Bruce. And they did so gladly! It was almost as if… as if it was their natural state.

FREEDOM is the constantly recurring cry. Yes, but freedom to do what? Freedom to choose our masters. We don’t always choose wisely, but we’ll be damned if you don’t let us choose! (Heck, we even get to choose if we’ll be damned.) Few and far between are the true anarchists–and even if all governments broke down, people would naturally find and huddle together under masters of one sort or another.

But a master whose subjects hate him is a master whose power is in grave jeopardy. A master whose subjects choose and love him is a greater master.

Because it is given to us to think and feel, and to will, and to choose according to our will.

We want who we want. We want someone who listens to us. Someone who understands us. Someone who knows the difficulties of our life and will be fair with us–or perhaps less fair and more merciful. We’d like Someone to defend us against our enemies. It would also be nice if this Someone gave us things. We’d like to be able to look up to this Someone, to call them a Hero, to hail their flag proudly, and proudly name ourselves their subject.

(Not that I’m talking about Anyone in particular, of course not, whyever would you think such a thing.)

The Marvel universe has a god who kills a man in front of a crowd, rounds them up like frightened cattle, like frightened chattel, then shouts them into submission. Of course a man stands against him, and of course this man is a hero. As it should be! Loki would have stomped upon and stripped away their God-given wills.

We have a God who allows himself to be killed in front of crowds of men, just to save a bunch of frightened sheep, just to be a good shepherd, then asks for their submission–because they’re going to run headlong off a cliff if they don’t turn around.

“Kneel.

Is not this sweeter? Is this not your natural state?

It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave to pour yourselves out to someone, even as I pour Myself out to you.

You think you see the bright lure of freedom in all the darkest corners, and you diminish your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.

I am the only One with freedom and power and identity, and I give it freely to all to look to Me .

You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel:

To your empty selves, to your empty sins, to your empty oppressors, or to Me.

Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

And those men who stand, those who defy him, he allows to walk away. To walk away into Hell. To walk away into nothing. To run  away from God into everything that is the opposite of God. To break his heart. To hurt themselves.

But our God did not make us automatons, he made us beings with free wills to choose our rulers, and that means allowing us to choose rulers to our detriment.

Just think of it; what if Loki had known even a little piece of that wisdom?

What if Loki had come to earth and said, “Hey babes, Loki from Asgard here, just a lonely little trickster god looking to rock–and rule–your world. Who’s with me?”

I’d bet that much of the world’s female population, at least, would have waved signs and guns on his behalf from the outset.

…Did I mention we don’t always choose wisely?