We’re “Children” of Some King
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about England’s King Henry VIII and life during his reign. “Everyone knows” that Henry VIII was just a lecherous, bloated, self-indulgent, over-aged frat boy. But that’s more caricature than fact. The truth is that he was a far more complex person.
For instance, he was, particularly early in his life, a very devout person. He practiced his faith as he understood it with great regularity and apparent deep conviction. At the beginning of what came to be the Protestant Reformation, one of the best-selling books in all of Europe intended to refute Luther’s arguments and defend the Catholic Church was a tightly argued little work written by (get ready for it…) Henry VIII. And, we’re not talking about something ghost-written; all indications are that Henry himself did the research and writing. And it wasn’t a “best seller” because he bought up a lot of copies himself. It was legitimate. It was such a popular work that Luther himself felt compelled to respond publicly to Henry’s arguments. The Pope of the day granted Henry the honorific title, “Defender of the Faith,” in appreciation for Henry’s efforts to defend his (the Pope’s) authority.
Only a very few years later, when Henry needed an “out” from his marriage to his first wife so that he could marry the object of his affections, Anne Boleyn, Henry ended up turning against “the Church of Rome,” saying the Pope did not in fact have authority over him. Henry ultimately had Parliament declare him the head of the “Church of England.”
It’s easy to see the problem in someone else: Henry’s faith “shapes” his life in many ways…but then he can turn on a dime when the moral demands of his faith stand in the way of what he wants.
What he did in that “moment” revealed that his real commitment, when it came down to it, was to himself. In other words, the ultimate authority in his life was himself.
I’m not trying to argue that Henry was right to defend late medieval Catholicism or that he was right in the direction he took the English church. I’m not trying to argue that his particular religious practices were Biblical. My point is that he was “faithful” to what he believed was right until that came into conflict with what he wanted.
Are we so different? Or, are there times we are “children of King Henry VIII,” completely committed to Christ’s ways…until it’s just not convenient.
“I’m all for sexual purity”…until the right opportunity presents itself, that is.
“I’m definitely against drunkenness”…but life’s so hard right now and I just need to forget some things for a while. Besides, it’s just so hard to draw that line between being well buzzed and being drunk…
“I’m all for being a good steward of my finances, giving liberally to the church, and spending wisely”…but what’s a little debt when I can get the kids all the things they want now so that we can enjoy them until the next upgrade? Anyway, God’ll understand that I’m strapped when the collection tray comes by.
“I’m all for making sure that my words build up my brothers and sisters”…but sometimes it just feels good to get in a good jab or two.
“I’m definitely against gossip and talking badly about my brothers and sisters”…but some things are just too juicy to keep to myself.
“I’m all for sharing my faith with people who don’t yet know Jesus and his ways”…just don’t ask me to do anything about that; isn’t that why we have ministers?
“I’m definitely against pornography”…but if I know I’m not going to get caught…and “nobody gets hurt,” right?
“I’m all for regularly meeting with fellow Christ-followers to worship or study together and encourage each other”…just don’t go over an hour on Sunday and do not even try to “guilt” me into a class or small group, for pity’s sake!
“I’m definitely against gluttony, especially in a world of indulgence for some and utter poverty for others”…but have you tried that new Chinese buffet place?
“I’m all for being a unified church, serving under the leadership God has called forth in our church”…just not this group of leaders. Oh, and not until they start doing everything just the way I like it.
Maybe those scenarios are caricatures in their own way. Maybe none of them comes close to the reality of your life or mine. But here’s the point: We’re the “children” of some king.
Our moral choices will show we’re “children” (of a sort) of Henry VIII if we are only faithful to Christ’s ways as long as they don’t conflict with what we want.
Or, our moral choices will show we’re “children” of God if we are faithful to his ways even when they do conflict with what we want.
Jesus calls us to be children of God, and he doesn’t mince words when it comes to the meaning of our choices:
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil… (Luke 6.43-45a).
Learn the good. Choose the good. Treasure the good. Keep on choosing the good.
Be a “child” of the right King.