Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Madness of Our Determination to Be Consistent

Skateboarders in Ann Arbor

In Romans Paul writes that Jesus-followers are no longer under the rule of the Mosaic Law which, when applied to the "flesh" (sarx; fallen human nature), could not change a person's heart. Now, all who trust in Christ and follow after him have the Holy Spirit residing within. The Spirit leads us and empowers us into righteousness.

When we were under the reign of sarx the way of achieving righteousness was by trying harder, by striving, by exerting "will power" which led, as Richard Foster has said, to worship of the human will. But in the realm of the Spirit striving ceases, and being-led happens. To be led by the Spirit means striving and trying harder ends. We've been there, done that, failed miserably at that. For all who are in the Spirit these are the days of freedom from achievement by mere human effort.

The leading of the Spirit: many say they want it, few actually go for it. The reason few go for it is because the Spirit leads where he wills, not where I will. "Change" and "difference" are operative words of the Spirit. The Spirit's leading is non-programmable, unpredictable, and interruptive. People who need to be in control resist this. The Spirit's leading threatens routinization. Our Sunday worship services reveal who or what is really leading things. (See Life Is a Series of Interruptions.)

Thomas Merton writes of our need for the mercy of God to bend down and lay hold of our controlling hearts and free us from the terrible burden of needing to always have things go our own way. Merton says: "Only mercy can liberate us from the madness of our determination to be consistent." (Merton, Raids On the Unspeakable, 32)

A real Jesus-follower will grow to see that any need to have things go "our way" or "my way" is madness. What we thought was life and joy and security in our plans is seen to be false and crazy in light of the purposes of God, and the Spirit's guiding us into them.