Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In for the Long Haul by Greg York

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It’s been noted that the longest journey in life is the one by which a conviction travels south from our head down into our heart.  No matter how profound the conviction, it is not really a part of who we are at our core if it’s just “in our head.”  That seems especially true of our spiritual lives.  Well, if you’re like me, I guess.  You see, this is what I find most challenging about growing in Christ.  It’s not a knowledge issue.  Rather, I find doing what I know to be the challenge.

I know, for instance, that Jesus says I should “love” those in my life who make my life difficult (that seems to be a pretty fair practical application of the idea of “enemies”).  I know I should (at the very least) not respond in kind, not try to make their lives difficult just because they treat me unfairly (imho).  I know that I could try to make their lives better in some way, treat those people better than I perceive they are treating me.

But I still find going with the flow of my negative feelings for “enemies” so much easier to do

I know, as well, that Jesus says that while anger is a normal, even useful, emotion, harboring anger and then acting solely on the basis of anger is too akin to murder to let anger drive the relationships in your life.

But I still find nurturing and then expressing my anger in relationship-damaging ways to be so much easier to do

I know, for one more example, that Jesus says that it’s crucial not to allow our sexual desires to run out of control in our lives.

But I still find that allowing my eyes to linger and my mind to wander to be so much easier to do

I know, for one last example, that Jesus says…

I could go on and on, and we’re not even out of Matthew 5 yet!  You get the point.

Although the whole context is not a perfect match for what I’m talking about here, I resonate with the sentiment Paul expresses in Romans 7.18b-19a: I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want…

What Paul says in that passage (in the fuller context) is what pulls me up short: He’s pretty clear that to know but not to do is a measure of the power of evil in our lives.  (An aside: I’d recommend that you read Romans 7.14-25, ponder it for a moment, let it sink in, but then be sure to read Romans 8.1 and 8.31-39.  And then you’ll probably want to spend a little time thanking God for his incomprehensible grace toward us sinners.)

Whoa!  Wait just a second, Paul!  “Evil” is when you do something bad on purpose, right?  Well, sure.  But apparently evil’s control is also on display when we are not doing what know.  Or, to refine that point a bit, evil is at work when we are not letting what we know shape us at our core.

2 Peter 1.3-8 pulls this challenge together simply and profoundly.  Our lives in Christ are based on our knowledge of him and of God’s will.  And our lives in Christ are based on the surety of his promises.  But there’s another factor.  Another BIG factor.  It’s expressed in a little verb translated “make every effort,” or “spare no effort.”  We knowmany if not most of us, for the most part anyway, something of the life he calls us to lead.

Are we “making every effort” to “do” that life?  Or, are we just doing the life we find easier to do?

Here’s the bottom line for spiritual transformation (which is the subject of this leadership blog, after all!): We will only grow more deeply into the life of Christ when we act on what we know.

Or, to put it another way: The goal of life in Christ is not to be able to pass a quiz on what we know.  The goal is to live a life (a real life) that is shaped by his values.

Do I need to keep “funding” my knowledge of Christ and his ways?  Absolutely.  For as long as I live.  But my heart will not change unless I do something about what I know.

Maybe it’s true, then, that the longest journey is the one from head to heart.  It’s the journey of a lifetime for those who are in Christ.  So, what’s going to be my next step?  What’s going to be your next step?

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