Reality In The Christian Life

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If you are anticipating or trying to develop a life in Christ, I would not have you ignorant of how it is. Do not be a shallow thinker. Some shallow dreamers, not being real thinkers, dream of life in Christ as a teen age life transition into a shallow happiness that solves all problems. Heaven preserve us from that type of dreamy thinking. These dreams are like beautiful pastoral compositions in painting. They give you a false idea of basic existence in the country. There’s no smell, no barnyard noises and the animals don’t leave droppings. It’s a beautiful scene for the wall, but don’t think it’s real rural life.

Similarly please do NOT think of life in Christ as a Cinderella fairy tale where the believer finds Christ in a sort of spiritual version of the handsome charming prince, and the two co-exist happily ever after. The  fundamental mistake in this type of dreamy and dream-on spiritual thinking is not that Christ does not bring us a deep inner happiness but that Christ brings more of a fulfillment of reality than a shallow happiness to those trying to avoid reality.

The best way I know to give you an illustration of this is in having children or a child. You discover a new type of innocent and unconditional love in the baby. It is a thrill to you, a parent, and it develops a new sense of responsibility in you for the baby. You would not take anything for the baby. You, as a parent, experience a new type of love in the relationship with the baby. But the fact is you are not in   la-la land. You are now changing diapers. Certainly no one expects you to enjoy this, but you do it out of love.

Spiritual fulfillment in Christ changes some of your basic attitudes. You grow as a person just as a parent grows up from a child. You have a deep inner fulfillment, but you do not escape reality. Instead, you  find reality has a deeper hold on you. You recognize spiritual obligations in and from the love of Christ just as you realize parental obligations from the love of the baby. Without you as a parent, you realize that baby may not make it. It changes you. It transforms your outlook. So also in Christ. After you have realized the love of God, you realize that His Kingdom of love will not grow up as it should or might without you to help, serve and protect others.

So you see your life may be changed by experiencing the love of Christ just as your life can be changed by experiencing the love of a baby or a spouse. Experiencing love transforms your attitudes, but it should not  really offer you an escape from reality. After you have the child, you parents think at certain times, “We would not do this but for the baby.” The Apostle put it similarly: “The love of Christ constraineth  us.” (II Corinthians 5:14)

Of course the love does not always constrain. We are not perfect. Sometimes our sins break through anyway. But basically our attitudes have been changed by love. Now when we sin, we know it, whereas  once when we sinned and knew not love, we knew it not. Nor even did we care.

Mother Teresa in India used to say that she hated to bathe lepers. Her habit was to collect the dying  and clean them up. She did this out of love for God whom she said told her to go to India to serve others. She did. She served the lowest, the forgotten, and the most poverty stricken. The love of Christ exalted her, fulfilled her and changed her attitudes. It offered her happiness but not a dreamy escape type of  happiness that enabled her to dodge reality. Instead she was symbolic of an inner happiness that transformed that bit of reality God placed her in and guided her to.

I say this to you because I would have you understand. Love is an elevator that carries you to different floors of awareness in life. Love has many floors in life which are opened through relationships. There is the ante-penultimate floor of spousal love, the penultimate floor of parenthood, and the ultimate floor that the love of God experienced opens to you. But it is not an escape from reality to the spiritual. It is a  transformation of reality through the spiritual.

It is my suggestion you live as full a life of grace as you can. Do not stop climbing in grace until you have gone to every floor. Every stage in life has its graces and its loves. Do not fall short of the last and the  greatest stage: the great love we find in God. You know it waits for you because you may have experienced the other types previously. God’s Love is the next natural plateau of awareness offering the ultimate  perspective in grace. Why not experience the greatest and the best: the awareness of God Who Is. Love?

Jesus said that in God’s house were many mansions: “if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John:  14:1) I think these mansions are devoted to the types of love God nurtures through common and special grace that we may enjoy and celebrate here and after here. I tell you the highest of these is “agape,” the  Greek word for the love of God. I advise you not to miss out on it. If it were not real, I would have told you. But I know it to be real. I would not have your life meaner, thinner and emotionally poorer for not knowing this and being without it.

Are you not aware “that man shall not live by bread alone?”( Luke 4:4)   I would rearrange this to observe: a person may live by bread alone, but he will not live well. He will be miserable, non-spiritual mean and hostile. One more mere materialist in our Stone Age of Mere Materialists loose on the world. Surely in your living you can go or find a finer, higher plane of life than a Stone Age life without the refinement of spiritual qualities?      

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.