James Lewis MacLeod
Table of Contents
Life In Two Worlds
We are inhabitants of two worlds. One is spiritual and the other is literal, but it is impossible to live fully in one world without knowing the other. We may wonder about the dead, but even the dead wonder at the literal, who living here are strangely without faith, not living fully, half alive.
The proof of these two worlds is in the living, for as we must breathe air we do not see to live, so we must live faith we do not see to breathe freely. For breath and faith are natural to man.
No man can hold his faith any more than his breath, for it will go forth and there is satisfaction in its doing so. When we see a gasping man, holding in his faith, we laugh, for he is of all things ridiculous and unnatural. Even a child has more wisdom.
The ultimate test of faith then is not that we have faith, but the type of faith we have.
This is the foundation of all faith, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the sun of the spiritual world breaking on the other. And because there are two sides to life, the seemingly dwindling sun that sets here, breaks there, and the shrinking life or hope that sets here, reappears there. So, if you are cast down, do not ultimately despair. If this world seems dark, the dark is in the watcher's eye.
Do not take yourself too seriously or importantly but take the Lord seriously and importantly because in the end only God matters. And why worry about the Kingdom of God? The Lord can take care of Himself. The Kingdom of God does not rest on your shoulders.
The too serious lose a sense of proportion and serenity. They become spiritually deformed and grotesque by indulging in their self-importance. Not knowing when to stop, they become fretful and egotistical. Self-indulgence makes them peevish. Today whips them whining into tomorrow.
Let the pressures of one day be sufficient for one day. Do not take tomorrow so importantly you forget your true business is today. No man should take himself so seriously he becomes spiritually grotesque and deformed.
Indulging in self-importance causes more trouble than the frivolous. Observe the frivolous. They are easily dismissed as shallow, but the ones taking themselves too seriously encourage self-importance. Keep in mind that everyone's understanding is limited, and the man who takes himself too seriously with a limited understanding makes himself comic and his cause ridiculous. See yourself with perspective.
The truth is not in the too serious or self-important because they are, as off center as the frivolous. Between frivolity and a sense of martyred self-importance, find some reasonable position where you do not L have to fret or fuss or carry on, but in Christ find your serenity without giving up.
Foolish students shift their contemplation of spiritual values to the admiration of the teacher expounding them. Jesus, disgusted with this foolishness, asked a student listening to him, why callest thou me good? There is none good save God.
Jesus wanted the man to deal with His questions and His parables, not to lose himself in personal admiration. This foolish student looked at the teacher's personality rather than at the lesson he was teaching.
Why callest thou me good? asked the teacher. It is the lesson of the goodness of God that is important. And is this not the mark of a good teacher? His subject is more important than himself. Jesus was a good teacher.
Many would rather admire a teacher than deal with the questions of spiritual worth he is asking. The importance of the teacher, however, lies not in what he is, but in the attention he calls to his truths.
It is true the teacher may hope what is taught will one day affect personality, but it must go out and become uniquely and independently the other person's before it can return. If personal admiration displaces understanding, then the value of the truth is lost. Imitation without understanding is a shortened circuit that extinguishes the original light.
Avoid the mistake of the student Jesus rebuked. Do not let attention to a subject slip to the teacher. Keep your mind on truth. Only that is good. God will take care of the man.
Many men have intelligence but few have wisdom. Intelligence can be educated, but wisdom cannot be inculcated. In the times prophets and wise men live, few realize it, for it is only the passage of time that proves prophecy correct or wise men to have had wisdom. Wisdom may have the attention of the future, but it rarely has the present that concerns it.
Most wise men and prophets were doomed to be Cassandras. People did not heed them in their day, and only time proved be truly prophetic. By the time men recognized them to be truly prophetic, and wise men, instead of misdirected contemporaries, their message had become of little practical worth. New circumstances had arisen that called for other immediacies of action.
The practical advice of the prophets proved to be of immediate importance but no lasting consequence. But the prophets had such a wholeness to them, that when their ephemeral actions were done; the better part of them was left behind in a heritage of spiritual concern.
Wise men and prophets leave behind a residue of values. Their works, no longer applicable to vanished situations, remain monuments and markers for all time, guiding men in the direction they must go to make real advances.
If there is any way to raise man's awareness, it is that men search what is now recognized as scripture and wisdom not for the sensational, but for attitudes, relationships and perspectives that, as long as man and , God, are of enduring value. These attitudes and relationships are higher truths. The search for them is value. The knowledge of them is wisdom.
Judgment is reason within a framework of spiritual values. The world has wit and love but little judgment. This is unfortunate because in the end judgment determines heaven or hell.
People say God sends judgment, as if God were vindictive, only this is not true. God loves us and sends prophets to reason with us about what will happen if we do not have true spiritual values. There are spiritual attitudes which, if violated, brings down judgment, and God does not send it, but we bring it down on ourselves.
The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Paul reasoned before Felix, the Roman Governor, of righteousness, temperance and judgment sure to come. Felix said to Paul, "Come back at a more convenient season." He saw enough truth to be disturbed but not enough to do anything. He decided like all humanity and Scarlett O'Hara, "Well, I will think about this tomorrow." -
But tomorrow has caught up with itself, and this is the day after where bombs and mass death hang over us. We live in an age of the apocalypse when we shall establish some reason or total ruin. It is judgment, reason within a framework of spiritual values that we need.
Man is a creature of hot desire and established habits, and he does not like to be disturbed at either. His evil is not intentional, perhaps, only comes from weakness. He would rather think about this tomorrow. Who wants to find judgment sitting at the door in sackcloth and ashes, but ask yourself this: How long would we last without it?
Literal minded people get no further in faith than arguing over miracles. They Bliss the point of Christianity. Jesus said His purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God was open to repentant man.
The engaging miracles of the Bible, changing water to wine or the cure of a leper, were done in quick moments of pity. These little miracles were compassionate largesse as Jesus went about His real mission of proclaiming God was available to man.
Faith comes from an awareness inside. It does not come from attention getting outside things. The people who come for a miracle today will not be here tomorrow. They confuse the immediately remarkable with the permanently satisfying. The immediately remarkable in religion is not the real issue.
Over our wounds in life a scab of personality has forced, and we are often itchy, ugly things. The real miracles of the Gospel were that rough scabs of personalities were sloughed, the literal rose to transcendence, and the psychologically crippled could find enough, faith to walk towards a goal.
Miracles and the understanding of them begin with God in the heart. Seek first the Kingdom of God that begins with Christ in the heart. If you seek first this spiritual wholeness, then the place of miracles will assume the correct proportion in your mind.
The shock of being threatens non-being, and where men should appreciate, they feel threatened. Few men have the magnificence of mind to let different men be, or even wish them well along a different path. The established leaders of Jerusalem, made to look shoddy by the intelligent and compassionate life of Jesus, set out to reject Him when they should have valued His differences.
But appreciation implies recognition of values, and what they recognized in Christ, they did not want: a spiritual Kingdom. They wanted another literal Kingdom. Only they did not recognize their only hope of this was Christ, but they wanted a cart without a horse.
Jesus was rejected and you may expect, in like manner, the possibility of a shock and rejection of your contribution. Where there should be appreciation, resentment; where there should be recognition, opposition: and where there is honesty, a quick cover up, because the people do not have good values.
If people do not appreciate your truth, and you have considered carefully it is a truth, your hope is that time is on the side of the most sensitive. It is only a matter of time until what is right is proven right. God does not let matters lie, for Jesus was raised from the dead as proof of His truth, and this was foreordained at the beginning of the universe.
In the same manner truth and higher values may be erased publicly, even the Gospels burned, but they lie dormant within the spirit of man. Count no truth dead but sleeping. When some temporary stone on the spirit of man is rolled away, these truths and the hope for these truths among all mankind will reappear above this sterile splendor.
Achieving success may show what a man or nation has, but living in it shows what a nation is. Nothing is intrinsically wrong in success or riches, but it takes more than success to be successful. The spiritual attitude bred by success can lead to disaster. The success of today can be the first step in the defeat of the nation or the man tomorrow.
Success is the background of tragedy. A nation of the successful will not necessarily be a successful nation, because success allows the worst to come out. In hard times we may have nothing to fear except fear, but in good times we have to watch lack of fear about human nature.
Nothing succeeds like success in throwing a nation off balance. Smugness, lack of proportion, lack of action, over action, rigidity, follow success. Prosperity breeds self pity. The test of success in men or nations is if they recognize being is more important than having. This is what is meant by, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Giving, that is being, is higher than having.
Some claim success proves the calling of God, only this is a vulgarity beyond belief: that we live in order to have to prove what we are. No man needs to prove himself in Christ through anything, but if there is any success, it is living in or out of success with spiritual values and balance, not exhibiting your calling through display, but through love and a well focused life.
Christ is the magnet that draws all things to Him and puts them down fresh when they are tired from understanding. He pulls all disgust to Him; His presence is understanding, and sympathetic awareness is there after He is gone.
In prayer is the highest form of knowledge and the deepest expression of human happiness.
Prayer is the best hope for self regard. If you enter into a relationship with God, then you know your self-regard comes from God. Self regard based on the opinion of others is shallow and superficial, but in the Lord is the truest reflection of our deepest selves. It is found in prayer.
In prayer we look inside where Christ lives in each of us. Every man has Christ in him but not all men recognize Christ within themselves. In every man there is a picture of Christ, but it remains to be seen whether this will be developed. The best way to develop this is prayer. Prayer brings down the Christ that brings out the Christ within us.
Prayer enables us to be what we really are. It is through prayer we are able to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things. It reveals the Christ within us. There is new belief in old things. Not I believe but Christ believeth through me.
Jesus taught us to pray, saying, "Our Father," and in this He saw quite clearly.
Man is very like a child: Unselfish in a limited circle, pliable and sometimes pleasing to look upon, a giver of touching gifts, with a disarming innocence needing worship and belief.
The problem lies elsewhere: Ruthless outside his circle, weak, desiring to impress, meddlesome, disorderly, a strutter in borrowed faces.
No deep thinker, he lulls himself to heavenly sleep with rituals like wave lappings, decks himself out like a witch doctor, breathing sincerely in your face, and, like a happy baby, rattles rhetoric and statistical beads.
There is a comic innocence in the way he kneels to God to buy his way into heaven and tries to bribe God with a wink and good deeds.
The mark of Cain, the big, literal minded child who killed his brother and ran, is still upon him. He rarely looks inside. One smiles at him as a parent with a child. He has not really begun his moral or spiritual evolution.
Jesus said that he longed to gather these chickens under the hen's wing. He could not help but cluck and sigh over such as these. And knowing the nature of man, he taught us to pray wisely, saying, "Our Father."
Turning The Other Cheek
Jesus said to turn the other cheek because it caused coals of fire, that is to say a guilty conscience, to arise in the other person. The idea was to turn the other cheek because to turn the other cheek restored the perspective of the other.
Turning the other cheek for the sake of turning the other cheek is a literal scrap of scripture that breaks the logic; like saying, Judas hung himself, go thou and do likewise. "
Turning the other cheek is redemptive self-imposed suffering for a reason. Suffering added to injury for a reason, not mere revenge. Revenge is low: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and there is nothing redemptive about it. A deep bitterness creating more.
Jesus assumed the other person had conscience enough to have additional suffering restore him to a sense of proportion while deepening our own awareness. But what of this age?
We live with organized things without consciences: bureaucracies, impersonal systems and psychopathic things. If we turn the other cheek, they comment, thou fool, and laugh, then make a bigger profit on the suckers. Or quote a meaningless law, thinking to rule by legalisms. To encourage these is not what Jesus meant by turning the other cheek.
If we turn the other cheek with some things, it is really not turning the other cheek but crossing to the other side? We are then Levites: to turn the other cheek means to cross to the other side, as a very shallow passer by.
Consider then when you deal with conscienceless things: do I pervert the purpose of the Gospel by the letter? When I turn my cheek, am I crossing to the other side?
Let the understanding of Christ serve you as a. benediction as you go through your days. Do not be afraid to be happy in God in your way.
Do not fear others may criticize you. Very critical people probably do not want to understand. The bitter take refuge in stereotypes of thought and morality. From these viewpoints they criticize.
Happiness and grace are everywhere, only we do not always see them because we do not understand the fulfillment of different temperaments or the highly individual forms grace may take.
The Apostle said we might be of good cheer, but that does not mean we have to be cheery. That type of happiness may not be in our make up. Paul meant that if Christ is risen to us, we will be happy. In happiness we must be true to our temperament, so the type of happiness we have will take our personality into consideration.
Then do not carp at others' happiness. And do not mock their attempts at happiness, for you do not know what pleases them, or even how they express it. That you understand others joy is not necessary, only that you allow others their right to happiness, because God has not wished at any time to deprive you of yours.
Jesus spoke in terms of natural things, fruit and vine, father and son, laborers and servants. Christian witnessing must also be a natural thing, the product of a profound relationship.
It comes as naturally as the gentle snow, which, in silent flurries uniformly graces. Who could stop it or force it?
The good Christian often does not know he is witnessing any more than the snow knows it falls or the tree knows it bears fruit. It is the natural thing to do, and the action falls without pushing in the course of time, as when the wounded Sidney gave his own water to the dying enemy. It seemed the thing to do. When the Good Samaritan came upon the man who had fallen among thieves, he helped him. It seemed the natural thing to do. Every man has a Christ in him. Only the Good Samaritan let him come out. The Christ in man is what responds to another.
But do not try to force on man what you cannot feel in God. Be an honest giver. Only man feels he must force what he cannot feel. One man cannot feel everything.
I have learned, wrote the Apostle Paul, in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be myself in Christ. If witnessing is to be done, it will come naturally or not at all.
It is not faith that is bad but affectation about faith. Talking religion in front of strangers, having too many public observances and prayer meetings. This affected religiosity is a pretty vanity about faith, a too cute displayal of it. These have a religion that crooks its little finger.
There is too much vanity in affectation to believe the affected understand religion truly. One thinks, why do they need to advertise? Or/ this lady's religion is too cute, methinks. An outward display is not necessarily a sign of inward grace, more likely a competition, fit to make the devil smile.
In watching those who push some gnat-like affectation of religion, the feeling is as if we are watching men without perspective strain at gnats and swallow camels. They are utterly without the elegance of those who go into a closet for prayer, but instead push vulgar pieties and prayerful exhibitionism.
In this way Jesus spoke of the Pharisees who blew trumpets before them when they gave alms. Religiosity is a too archway of blowing trumpets of piety before yourself when you want to show off how cute and religious you are.
The Lord said not to compromise the fragile purity of impulse by allowing the right hand to know what the left hand is doing. Not to make an admiring audience of ourselves or other people for our religious observances. The important thing is not sacrificial affectation, but a composed religion that cuts silently into the heart.
A Parable Of The Church
The chariot of a Roman conqueror contained an aged servant who held a crown over the hero's head as he drove triumphantly through gaping mobs. It was the duty of the servant to whisper in the ear of the hero, remember, thou art only a man.
This is a parable of man and the church. It is the duty of the church to be a servant to man and to hold the crown of God's image over him. It is also the duty of the Church to remind man constantly, remember thou art only a man.
In this way man is saved from himself. The Greeks called self-ruin hubris. In trying to become a God, the hero became less than a man.
The true wisdom of man is to attain humanity: let God be God so man can be human. The duty of the Church is to keep this covenant between man and God pure. It is a voice of balance for humanity.
In the Covenant between God and man, there is a tension, for man is pushed in being told he is made in the image of God yet pulled by being told he is a sinner. This can be very irritating to the literal minded who want this or that and, shut up.
The Covenant of God with man demands balance. It pushes in demanding mystery to protect God's sovereignty and pulls back before literalism applied to mystery carries man to idolatry and excess. It is the voice of sanity in faith, but we can expect literal extremists to find an extreme literalism. These will slip away from a demanding Covenant.
The servant in the chariot is the voice of the good Church trying to maintain the Covenant. It has the duty to be the voice of balance and humanity, the haunting voice behind man throughout all time, holding the crown of God's image above him, the aged and experienced servant, saying, remember, thou art only a man.
Nature shows the spirit behind creation is a happy geyser, a fountain and a spray, diverse, overflowing, even frivolous. Observe the wart fish and the giraffe.
There is logic in the creative spirit and the resuIts are highly individual. Each of the works progresses toward distinction. This distinction is to be cherished if, for no other purpose, it allows error to emerge more fully, the false paths to be exaggerated and made known.
Human personality is also to be tolerated, even error, for there is logic in His way, and His works move toward distinction among men as well as animals.
If we delight in God, we have a moral obligation to conserve the wondrous works of God: to tolerate diverse personalities and conserve the species of life.
The same can be said of air, earth and water, for they conserve life, and in our faith the very act of breathing is a sacrament. The man who repudiates things that conserve life, indirectly repudiates life.
If we cannot redeem the world, which the Apostle said groans in redemptive stress in Christ, we can be good stewards of it: protect that happy fountain which produced man, the aardvark and the orchid. And it was for this reason, that after God created the earth, He gave man dominion over it.
Man is made in the image of God to give. A man is never happy until he is giving because in giving to others he finds himself. In the family the man gives to the woman, the woman gives to the children, the children give to the dog. The round of giving stops when a low animal buries the bone.
Man was made to give, but he has become perverted and narrow in his giving, literal and non-transcendent, so that his giving is limited to a selfish circle. But the Lord said, if you love them, which love you, what thank have you? Do not sinners and publicans do likewise? All of us love inside our circle, and there is no great thing in common decency. God expects that and more.
If each man is to give outside his circle, then he must find a calling, so that he may transcend the circle of his ego, and give to those he does not know.
It used to be in other days that our calling was our work. And we gave to all men labor worthy of its hire. But now our calling may have to be outside our work, because the world has gotten out of hand. Can a" man be called to an assembly line? Or make plastic out of love.
Nevertheless, every man should find a calling, if no other man answers that calling, walk alone. The silent calling of an honest man will glorify God more than all the advertising of the corrupt.
Men have great difficulty with doctrines when they do not understand the beauty of holiness is a vibrant state of being between two opposing definitions.
The doctrines of the Church are paradoxes, because the best state of man is to be found in the state of tensions between two meanings.
Thus man is good yet a sinner, Christ is God and man, in obedience there is perfect freedom. Man is between heaven and hell, light and darkness.
Doctrines concern that middle state of being best found between meaningful definitions. Only this is not a sure way for everything. If the definitions are allowed to be cheap and literal, the middle state is degrading.
The difficulty arises when heavy minded men try to desert the middle, being literal, and wish to go to excess. If He is this, they say, God cannot be that, for there is little wit in them.
These do not see the duty of the man between is to be, just as the name of God in the beginning was "I Am." The followers of "AM" are to "be". Doctrines give an idea of where men are to be.
The Christian is a vibrant spirit alive in the middle. From this state everything good comes, for the Gospels say, seek ye first the Kingdom of God, that is to be, and all these, things will be added unto you.
On The Now
When you were a child, you thought as a child, but when you became of age, you were supposed to have put away the more obvious childishness.
The person who assumes he is poor because he always compares himself with the person assumed to have a little more of everything is childish. When he assumes, he assumes too much. In this way children believe the older ones have everything, but do not associate with the younger ones, because that is beneath their dignity.
Children know how old they are, but they look down on the present age because they believe how much better another will be. No child is then six but one month until seven. For a child every age but the next is a horrible one. He plans wonders to be done in the next age.
To plan for a future of romantic expectations is natural, but this may prove a self-deception. The future is like a new shoe. You do not know if it pinches until you try it on.
Do not be like a child and try to live in the ahead and never now. Life in the soul is a series of nows, and if you look after the nows, tomorrow will unfold naturally from them in such a way as to take care of itself. Jesus said He was the God of the living by which He meant the God of now. Let the dead bury the dead. Enter into the now of your Lord.
The spirit with which we are born gives us literal life. The spirit of faith in which we are reborn gives us wholeness of life and completeness of vision. The first gives us a literal life. The second life is an inner life. The fusion of the two makes a whole life. The whole life is another life to replace the pitifully literal life we were born with. It is in a sense a new life.
Wholeness is to be full of the spirit. Jesus said, be ye whole. Infuse your literal life with a fuller spiritual life so there will be a whole to life. Only this wholeness of life is hard to keep. The spiritual and the literal may struggle. Thus Jesus says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and He goes to pray to restore the spiritual fusion of His life. He went to His death a whole man.
Jesus was whole because in Him the spiritual and the literal were so fused as to become one. The literal part of the wholeness may die, but the spiritual part does not. The spiritual part of wholeness continues.
Of good men it may be said when they die, they leave a worthy heritage behind to testify to the wholeness that they had. And this is the test of the wholeness of anything, that a higher value is left behind after usefulness is over. Live so you may leave a better part behind.
The literal do not leave a better part behind, be- cause there is nothing eternal in them, and everything they have done is from vanity and for vanity.
Let your life have a wholeness. Do not look away from the literal but fulfill the literalness of life with the spiritual to give it meaning. And do not be ascetic and too abstaining, Paul counseled Timothy, or be like those ever learning but never able to come to real knowledge. Have the highest knowledge. Make wholeness your aim.
Every man should have a life within his life, and this inner life should be Christ. This life gives warmth and light. It is a secret light, but others are illuminated by it. Can a light shine for me and not for others?
Do not make the mistake of trying to shine to impress others, for salvation is not competition but realization and growth. There is much vanity among men, and men pretend to have no light among bad friends, and the most light among good friends, for man is made a chameleon by trying to please others, but made natural by trying to please God.
Be as natural before others as before God: let your yes be yes and your no be no. God is pleased when you value your statements and do not put on. And do not be what others think you are but what you know you are. Let this emerge.
The words of Jesus were, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, by which He meant: let the Christ within you respond naturally to others, and do not try to hide the Christ within you, for life will naturally respond to life.
And if you cannot feel your life respond to another life, do not despair of yourself. If you cannot do the, natural thing, do the decent thing, and do not be sorry about it, because grace is not given every man to respond to every problem.
It is useless to try to respond to others because you are told didactically you should help them. I help others because I first saw Christ. If I had not first seen Christ, then I would not now see Christ in others, and any help given to men would be sour and begrudging, because of what man is.
Do not make the mistake of some missionaries who help others because they see them in Christ, but help others because you see Christ in them. See Christ in others, and help them because you know what for brief moments man may be, and that in eternity these moments will become a lifetime.
Relating To God
What is your life but a rock thrown in a pool? One disturbance will lead to another until the impact - works itself out and the surface of eternity closes lover you once more.
If this is the case, that your life is an impact that will work itself out and be done, then you should not dictate to God.
God is more than we are. And what we wish is not of ultimate importance, only what God wishes is of the greatest importance. In fact, this is a comfort, that God is ultimately sovereign so the ridiculous and egotistical things men do will not prove enduring.
Serve who is sovereign. Do not worry about your life, because that is briefly done and soon closed over. Concern yourself with your soul. That is the only thing you have you may relate to eternity.
By relating yourself to God, you become part of His Kingdom, and you begin to find eternity in yourself. This eternity in yourself is the only thing that really matters. It offers lasting knowledge about what God is like, a thing of eternal value. Only this will live when the other impacts of our time dissolve.
The Poetry Of Faith
By faith we are made poets of God. Through faith we see things that only poets see. We know the visible to be invisible, the invisible to be a real relationship, and only then can we place the visible in perspective.
A scientist may know a fact of nature, but only a poet knows nature. A man may know a literal fact, but only a man of faith knows beyond this literal fact, for by faith we are made aware of it.
Faith transforms sight in such a way that the literal takes a reality from an invisible relationship and in looking at some ordinary thing, it takes on a wholeness not seen before. There are many ways of seeing things but faith is transforming sight that makes literal things become whole because we see through faith their invisible and fulfilling part.
We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith makes things whole. The city of God is built with men through faith. The universe brings its glories there, the visible and the invisible join hands, and life is wholly one. The acknowledgment of a spiritual world fulfills the literal one.
The just, said the Apostle, shall live by faith. Through faith we are made poets of God. Through grace we see, we feel, we know.
The Institutional Church I
Institutions to define and preserve ideas and visions are as necessary as physical bodies for the living spirit. The Church is the body of the Gospel. We are ascetics when we deny the needs of bodies. We are gross materialists when we overvalue them.
It is tragic when we desert the Church, ridiculous when we overvalue it. How shall they hear without a preacher is balanced by what shall they hear if they see no further than the preacher?
That bearing the message is the Church, yet the Church is not the message. The sermon is above the preacher. The Kingdom of God is the sermon. The Kingdom of God is above the Church that bears news of it.
The Church is the man in the parable of the Gospel who threw out the seeds upon different grounds. If a seed is planted, it grows out of the ground it came from. If the Kingdom of God is published, it often grows apart from the organization it came from.
If a person refuses the Kingdom of God because the Church is not perfect, he is of all men the most foolish. The Church is not supposed to be perfect. It is supposed to publish the news of the Kingdom of God that begins in the heart.
Will a prisoner refuse to read a pardon because the bearer is not to his liking. No, rather he eagerly reads the message regardless of bearer. Then his happiness spills over to all. The idiosyncrasies of the bearer's personality are trivial. In joy he knows what matters. The saved man in his joy knows some things about the Church are simply immaterial.
The Institutional Church II
We must be in the church but not become churchy. We must be in institutions but not become institutionalized.
Every institution has a tendency to become a house of mirrors, distorting and microscoping vision, and by so doing make us moral dwarves and literal fools. It was the institutionalization of the church that made the spiritual truths of Christ into the pages of Trollope.
Institutions do not become houses of mirrors intentionally but naturally. They are unknowing hypocrites, talking the high ideals for which they were founded, yet actually distorting us and making us microscopic in our views for their self preservation.
In schools where great things should be learned, the important thing becomes a trip to the water fountain. The students have become institutionalized and, in so doing, have perverted goals and misplaced values. And in churches the important thing becomes parking lots, altar cloths and the desirable people who attend.
The churches are to the Kingdom of God very like the schools to education. Often true wisdom and higher content is not in the schools, but learning is busy work technique. The fruits of the spirit may not be found in churches, but the goal of faith becomes a busy round of churchiness.
Institutions flounder in literalism, engender hypocrisy, lose sight of the high purpose for which they were founded, need reforming and may be petty, yet they are necessary bodies.
This is a matter of full vision and thus wisdom. We cannot do without institutions, but we must not let institutions define us. We cannot do without churches, but we must not let churches define us. These institutions are too much like little worlds; and, Jesus said, be ye in but not of the world.
The Sovereignty Of God
Basic to the heart of every man is a desire to manipulate God. A God believable without using faith is an understandable God. An understandable God is a God easily manipulated.
It is true the mysterious doctrines with which men strive in faith are but nursery rhymes to God, just as our own reason is the catechism of a child, only these things are necessary.
God protects His sovereignty with enough mystery to demand faith. Without mystery, God would be very easily manipulated. Ask yourself, would men hesitate a minute to manipulate Him?
Mysteries serve as a curtain for God. God acts behind these curtains. But immature men want to open these curtains because it is frustrating to them that God is not always delivering what they want. They want a modern toy of a God.
What man desires is not always what God wants. Men desire literal things. God desires spiritual things, and literal things in perspective.
God's spirituality and mystery are sources of much, irritation to literal minded men, but spiritual men know God has a purpose in their not understanding. Mystery is not a threat but a satisfaction. It ensures the sovereignty of God.
With spiritual maturity we resign ourselves to being used by a mysterious God rather than trying to use an understandable God. Only then do we stop beating the air with the hysteria of wanting and manipulating to get and, in quietness look inside to consider the will of God and to meditate on His sovereignty. Then, perhaps, we become servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
The race is not to the rich, nor the battle of wits to the clever, but these are pyrrhic victories. To achieve humanity is the only lasting victory of any consequence.
Understanding enlarges our range of humanity. What we do not know, we fear. Understanding builds dikes against fear. Every bit of understanding is that much more ground for our humanity.
Understanding comes through suffering. The Moffatt Translation of Ecclesiastes reads:
The more you know, the more you suffer The more you understand, the more you ache.
There is no understanding of man without pity. If we would understand man, we must be willing to ache.
Understanding makes us ache by cutting away what we would like to believe, and forcing us to believe what we suspected. It reminds us of the depth, brutality and irony of reality.
Our humanity is not won easily. It begins in an aching understanding of reality. This understanding may have been wrung from us by experiences we might as well not have had. Or things we would have been happy not to see. But if morality is to be appealing, it must have humanity. And humanity is based on sympathy through common understanding replacing fear.
Nothing done without understanding will be enough, only it is not enough to understand, because every man, however foolish, believes what he has done is right.
No child was ever punished that he did not sob, you do not understand. And this will be the cry at the Last Judgment, oh, Lord, you do not understand. It is the, petulant literalism of a child. Christ was a man, and parents too remember.
Caught in a wrong, man attempts to explain. He believes the price for indulgence is explanation. He cannot believe he can be understood and still be wrong, for a man cannot believe he may act on what he knows and still be wrong. Accustomed to a life of full sailing egotism, he rarely remembers he is only a man. It is an everlasting surprise to man that he is morally finite.
If explanation is the price for indulgence, then understanding becomes license for anything. Understanding may not be sold as the new form of indulgences. Understanding does not redeem. The Apostle said, I understand what I ought to do but I do not do it.
Often parents try to excuse children's actions through understanding. Does this make a bad child any the less worse? It means a spoiled child and neighbors with sore tongues from bitten impulses to speak.
Nor do promises of reform mean anything. Good intentions are pleasing vapors. Men easily become light headed with scents emanating from themselves. It is not enough to give understanding and exact some promise, but it is necessary to make men and children understand they are morally finite, and because of this must be held in check on some things.
Understanding makes sacred ground. So naturally man confuses understanding and holiness. When judging himself, a man substitutes understanding for holiness. What he understands is holy and defensible what he does not understand is unholy.
Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, experimented by withholding the Communion from those he did not clearly understand to be holy. He finally gave the Communion only to himself and his wife. And when he gave it to her, we may be sure he was not certain about her.
This is the greatest hubris to which men are prone: to consider others unholy because we do not understand them, and to consider ourselves holy because we have just enough self-knowledge to believe our intentions are pure.
Jesus said, the man who calls his brother a fool is in danger of spiritual hubris, because he calls another irrational and unholy.
Given an understanding of them, all men are rational. A reasonable emotion is behind even the most unreasonable action. And when we say a man is a fool, we have turned our face to the wall. We have given up the search for brotherhood through understanding of our common humanity.
In this search for humanity Christ said we are to forgive our brother seventy times seven. Sometimes it is the man we have to forgive; sometimes it is his understanding we have to forgive seventy times seven. Sometimes it is our misunderstanding that God has to forgive more than seventy times seven. May God forgive us our misunderstandings as we forgive others understandings.
Literalism Of The Mind
The history of the religious mind is often that of men's running away from God into literalisms. The results of literalisms are quarreling effeminancies.
Can a child go to the movie on Sunday? Card playing. Theology becomes scholastic literalisms. Are babies damned? Whose baptism is efficacious? A biscuit becomes God. Who is elected? Can a man fall from grace?
The history of the Christian Church has been a battle between literalisms. Literalism has in turn been the curse of every denomination.
The reaction to literalism is liberalism, a more sophisticated form of literalism. It carries the battle of literal scholasticism to the doctrines.
Instead of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, liberal scholasticism discusses if there are any angels. It is the ultimate sarcasm of fighting a literalism by giving back another and larger literalism.
It is as if liberalism wished to make fun of literalism by showing its reflection on a larger scale. The doctrinal make a mockery of the way of God through literalism, others see this, and they make a mockery of doctrine in the same way as revenge.
The Battle Between Literalisms I
The religious situation at the time of Jesus was on a one-dimensional plane. It was an unleavened fight between two literalisms. Jesus angered the Pharisees and the Sadducees by telling both missed the Kingdom of God.
The Pharisees believed all doctrine in a flat and uninspired way. Orthodoxy had become literalism. They had unleavened doctrines. There was the shell of belief without the inner singing. Warmth and mercy were lacking.
The Sadducees rejected the doctrines not in the law. They argued on a flat and one-dimensional plane. The Pharisees believed in an after life. The Sadducees did not.
Did the unbelief of the Sadducees raise them any higher spiritually than the belief of the Pharisees? They made the mistake of fighting a literalism with a literalism. One was literal, the other literally negative.
The method of the Sadducees was to reduce the literalism of the Pharisees to the absurd. The lawyers asked Jesus which husband a woman of seven husbands would have in the after life, because they saw Jesus believed in an after life. Jesus realized the lawyers sought to entrap him in the fight between two literalisms. And because it was on a one-dimensional plane it was a flat and hopeless argument. Jesus replied to them, You do not understand the Kingdom of God.
Literalism is always a problem in faith. In periods of non-transcendence the, faith slips into literalisms and the hopeless fight between literalisms. Do not pay any attention to either. They do not understand the Kingdom of God.
The Battle Between Literalisms II
Literalism is a survival in thinking from the non-transcendent pre-history of man. Fights between literalisms are still in the Stone Age of man's spirit.
Literalism is a scorpion. The battle between literalisms is a scorpion fight. If you see a fight between scorpions go to the other side, and when returning, they will be dead.
Allow literalism and literalism's liberalism to sting each other to death. They will turn on anyone or each other. It had best not be you.
All forms of literalism eventually become fossils. In a few years bitter life vanishes. Only the Kingdom of God is eternal. Only the things done in a spirit of transcendence will last.
Even though this is a comfort to know, there is still a problem in everyday life. Ordinary men will always come to try to get you involved in some one sided cause. Only you know truth is too transcendent for this literal a view.
The tragedy in the battle between literalisms is truth. Literalisms demand a stinging either/or when the wiser man finds one part of this truth is correct, one part of another's, only both need a different perspective. They need to be held with magnificence of mind.
It is fundamental to literalism that allegiance is to cause or party rather than to truth. Emotions untouched by God energize these passionate literalisms. And when truth comes, these literalisms cry, Crucify, Crucify. For the devil is not blind, only literal. Through literalism truth is crucified over and over.
Literalism And The Church
The sick and uncertain Church falls into literalism. It is the mistake of the uncertain mother who gives in to the child. If a child has a weak mother, she answers ill temper with sweets. If the sinner has a weak mother in the Church, she answers weak faith with a soothing literalism.
The false mother soothes with sweets. The false Church soothes with over simplified literalisms. It gives men idols. Literalism is always in the human heart, encouraging idols frees deep instincts to misplace themselves on literalisms.
The man given literalisms on one level may never rise to seek faith on another. Why should he? He has found on one level what he need not seek on another.
Pity and weakness made the Church consent to literalisms. The dark heart of the Church made idolatry of the literalisms. The sly heart of Churchy man learned to control these literalisms and, by doing so, to usurp the place of God.
For when God is made literal, the man who controls the literalisms, controls God. Religion is then centered in the men who control the Church, not in the mystery of God.
This creates two faiths: One is the man centered Church that says naively it has God. The other is the freely moving God mysteriously working outside the man controlled Church. '.
In a man centered Church God is not so much worshipped as by passed in literalism and idolatry. For literalism is fallen transcendence. Idolatry is fallen literalism.
In a God centered faith, man follows a mysterious and spiritual God whose only promise is, My grace is sufficient for thee.
So we must see the Church follows God, not assume God follows the Church.
Extremes Of The Church
Literalism and liberalism are the extremes of the Church. These threaten her life. They have already destroyed the body of the Church beyond any hope of reconciliation, but the real threat is her soul.
Although literalism and liberalism are present everywhere and in all churches, liberalism is most accented in the Protestant churches. Literalism is most exaggerated in the Roman Catholic. These extremes mirror in each other what they most hate in themselves.
Roman Catholicism is the exaggerated example of literalism. She declared infinite literalisms to be doctrines, then announced her infallibility on faith and morals. Her hubris in bitter pride at the rebuke of the Reformation is the ultimate in religious tragedy.
The end of liberalism's ridicule of literalism is agnosticism, social religion, and amorality in the Protestant extremes. Liberalism cuts away at faith, is sarcastic about belief, and is smug about superior non-belief. It is ultimately divisive because the churches are divided between believers and non-believers. Liberalism is agnosticism, it is a thing a man of simple belief can have no time for, and this in itself shows it is not the religion of Jesus.
These liberal and literal tendencies have destroyed the body of the Church, but this is of no real consequence. Jesus said, fear not those who can destroy the body. Fear those who can destroy the soul. These destroy the soul of the Church.
There are some who have sold out to the devil and some who have sold out to society. The ones who have sold out to the devil are probably happier.
The ones who have sold out to society must appear prosperous or die. They follow fads like sheep. They save to throwaway. They count the neighbor's possessions with an eagle eye. As Tatiana loved, so they admire: an ass because he is rich.
The ones sold out to society are the most envious. They are motivated by jealousy, afraid to be different, never secure, cheating themselves to feed envy in others, fearing criticism but never fearing to criticize others.
Such an unexamined yes to a corrupt society is not done by the whole. These people are not only in but have sold out to the world they know. If publicly Christian, they have an unexamined respectability. They have become pathetic in accepting the powerful.
Such an acceptance of society must come from frightened and weak people bullied into an abject round of apologetic and fawning convention. A segment of society may be this way, but what happens if the majority of society becomes spiritual impotence whining and scratching after money and a type of barbarian prestige? It is a time for trumpets. Jericho. Jericho.
There are grace filled men who speak out the truth. Luthers, men who stand to speak because they can do no other. When they speak, something deep in history says, amen.
These are the people of whom Jesus spoke, lovers of light who want things dome in the light. They open windows in men's souls. They live as Goethe died, asking for more light.
These men who speak out are the foundations of any future. They are the consciences of their generation, in whom trust is to be placed, if any is left to be had. Institutionally corrupt men congratulate themselves that if such men had never spoken out, everything would have been all right. Optimists, aren't they?
The unthinking will despise the speaker also. He proclaims from the housetop what others would keep in the dark. Too much light at once is terrifying. The innocently blind are afraid of those who let in too much light.
Jesus said, blessed are they who have suffered for the redemptive truth of God. So persecuted they the prophets before them. Even truth used for mean purposes may become ultimately redemptive in the hands of God. Time is truth's friend. Perspective finds itself in time.
Literal men rely on people and organizations, but nothing in man or made up of men can give unthinking security and unchanging perfection.
Of even the best of men, it must be said, they do much good and some harm, ordinary men with some extraordinary way, for they are human, great but not divine. Of even the best of structures men attain to, these do some good and much harm, ordinary organizations with some high purpose, and when they fall from these high purposes, the organizations degenerate into legalism and bureaucracy, and their energy works against the purpose they profess.
Everything is a mixture of truth and error, so life offers man no place of perfect peace to lay his head. The quest for security, perfection and happiness beyond a certain point is killing and excessively literal. If you could secure them, you should not have them. And if you think you have them, you foolish one, self-satisfaction has ruined you.
Jesus said the foxes had holes but the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. That is the way of faith. The literal may have idols as the foxes have holes, but faith enables man to live with insecurity. God's strength is perfected in our insecurity. This causes despair in the literal man, but the man of faith will find strength in rising to it.
Men are so busy clashing over symbols they lose their sense of priorities. Symbols will change: only man is eternal. One son may die for one symbol: another son for another symbol. The symbols are ephemeral but that men are willing to die for them is an eternal.
The tragedy of history is two eternals struggling over an ephemeral. And in so doing man loses his sense of what is to be valued.
Men kill each other over symbols because they cannot recognize in others value more important than the symbol. They are blind. Literalism is a form of blindness. For if we make the symbol into a literalism, then kill or hate for it, has the symbol served its purpose to further humanity? Instead, it has stolen humanity. And is his not the only use of a symbol: to further humanity?
We should not transform a symbol into literalism, but transform the literal into the symbolic. The way of giving life meaning is illuminating the literal so it becomes symbolic. When the symbolic is taken literally, what was meant to raise men to humanity soon lowers them to subhumanity.
We should not allow a symbol, which attracts us to transform us into an ugly literalism, but use the symbolic to raise the literal in our lives.
God makes the literal symbolic, but man takes the symbolic literally. God illuminates through a symbol but man degrades the symbol into literalism to fight over. Man attacks and fragments life with a truly vicious and eunuch-like impotence because he cannot transcend.
Literal love clothes others in what we desire, and others are wonderful because they come dressed in dreams, but wise observers see clearly that the emperors of love garbed by our fantasies actually have no clothes on.
For literal love does not consider what others are, but what it will have. It throws a set of selfish dreams out to the world. Because of their nature, these dreams may stun but ultimately they must boomerang.
Literal love around its own inclination turns, but God or another is that axis around which an honest love orbits. And this is the test of any love, whether we move around it, or we make ourselves the axis of our world, and sitting still revolve around us the puppet people of our dreams.
Love is that force around which we should turn. For love, like the world, runs by: it knows not, cares not, praise God, why. For as one turns, the other goes by: warm, illuminated, yet serene, and with considered pleasure turning circles around love.
Literal love may around its own inclinations turn, but honest love another orbit finds, and for light and warmth gives place of self and all credit to the other, content to be as long as in another it may more than self reflection find.
Most of the dour behavior we know as distinctively Christian is the sour grapes of religious people who have bitten into a literalism.
The very air of literalism is oppressive, because too much is spelled out. It has ceased to be the spirit behind a thing, and become the literal thing in itself.
Nothing in all creation is bad except use makes it so, but the literal have endowed certain things with intrinsic evil. Some make literalisms of good; some make literalisms out of evil. The literalisms of the good encourage idolatry. The literalisms of evil encourage an ugly paranoia in faith. It is a religion of frightening things. And it is possible to have both idolatry and paranoia in the same so-called religious atmosphere.
These religious people without understanding of faith make idols of evil out of certain things, and they spend their time in an atmosphere of fright and avoidance, in the same way those who make idols out of good spend their time in worshipping literal things.
When people create evil idols of earthly things, their morality becomes a literal minded attack. Morality is degraded to the attack of evil literalisms with literal methods.
It is not the name that makes morality, but the spirit. Jesus said, by their fruits ye shall know them. Nor does the name Christianity make it Christian. The very name of Christianity can become a literalism. And through this much ugliness can be done.
He who would become a devil, let him reform his brother. The man reaching for a beam in another's eye: becomes spiritually ugly. He has a dry mouth and joy as he reaches. He is soon fascinated by how wonderful he is for doing this. The mirror of his morality becomes him.
Soon he will burn one brother to help another. He will pull a hood of righteousness over his head and stand silhouetted by the flames.
Can love be put in the heart by rape? If love cannot be put in the heart by rape, why believe morality can come from violence and ugliness?
The nature of men intent on others' beams soon becomes evident. One beam, then another, must be taken out of the neighbor's eye. If such a people choose to reform by literal methods, their armies are always at war. They smash the whole to get at a part. They leave a ruin and call it moral endeavor.
Men may talk morality and peace, but they do not understand them at all. Otherwise, war would not be so constant. The only thing they really understand is literalism. If a man slaps you, slap him back. And this literalism is what Jesus decried.
If you reach unbidden for the mote in another man's eye, you are on the way to becoming a devil. What you say may be true. The other man may not have a sense of moral proportion, but you are losing yours.
Jesus said, he who has the ears to hear let that ready one hear. Many were not ready to hear the Gospel. They could not understand. Grace had not been given them to recognize the Christ in the man Jesus.
On grace Pascal said, If I had not known beforehand, I would not recognize now. Grace and life have stages, so that we hear only what grace or experience as made us ready to hear.
Different people with different ages and different personalities hear different things. They are prepared differently to hear. We can listen only to what we are predisposed to hear. What one may be ready for, another has passed, and what one sees, to another it might never occur.
Tomorrow the whole may be made clear, but today you hear in part. And do not worry if you hear only a part, because you are only a part of life and very finite. It is through the corning together of many parts that we are made whole.
Be true to the part God has given you to hear. God expects you to do that part no matter what, because you have recognized that as corning from God. And do not try to do another man's part. You cannot really do another man's part because you could not know how he would do it or what his part might be. If to that part of yourself you recognize as coming from God, you are faithful and make a covenant with this grace, then you have acted on what God has given you awareness to recognize. You have brought your part to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus admired the widow who brought her mite. God requires of you that you bring your mite to the Kingdom of God. Bring that part you were able to hear and then act on. God will take care of the rest.
Man finds his glory in excess, a proving point of man's greatness, but the devil knows strength is potential weakness. He is a wrestler, and does not challenge strength openly, but tries to redirect it and use the strength against itself.
By turning to make use of man' s tendency to excess, he may push the faith off balance, and leave it to man's nature to do the rest.
A faith should have balance: a finely turned wholeness complemented by spiritual warmth. But the devil tries to throw faith off balance, so that the energies of men and churches go down false paths to do much harm.
Belief is twisted into literalism, the searching of our hearts into inquisitions, confidence in election into smugness, and love into an ugly and possessing thing.
For the devil's way is not to refuse to go, but to lead down the wrong path. The devil does not refuse to judge, but he places his thumb on the scale. In his madness there is a method driving men to madness. And if religion without warmth is nothing, the devil tries to get men to mistake the heat of devils in excess for spiritual zeal.
The devil turns man's good excesses and natural enthusiasms to misplaced dead ends. But I am confident all these turns of literalism, idolatry, inquisitions, slips and excesses of various twists will serve the eventual evolution of the faith.
Evil is not a simple thing for a fool to pluck out. The man plucking out the beam in another's eye will become disenchanted. He underestimates evil. Evil is not a superficial thing that can be handled in a literal way.
Evil is a wily and tricky thing because it is living. Evil has a life as a disease has life. This is what is meant by the devil. Evil has a lower life working against a higher life.
Everything is a configuration of man levels of life, so it is not a fight for life, or life against non-life, but a fight for a balance of life. There is a fight going on against higher life by ugly, irrational forms of diseased and hysterically literal life. These forms are devils.
God did not create evil. God created good, but the evil grew from it. A healthy body may be created by nature but cancer takes the body, and the cancer takes on a life, and this life is a devil that kills the higher life. There is a struggle between two types of life.
For evil, like cancer, is fallen life fed by innocent literalism. And in this way God created good but evil grew out of some moment of lack of faith compounded by literalism. A distortion will gather life from literalism and grow into a disease. This disease will take up a life of its own and be a devil.
Because evil is alive with devils, leading blind lives of diseased literalism, it has an awareness, and evil cannot be fought by literal methods as if it had no intelligence.
Literal people see a few things they cannot understand and conclude there is no God. In the same way literal minded people saw ships go over the horizon and said the world was flat. The first law of the literal is that God must not take things over their understanding, which is their horizon.
Old World people steadfastly drew a line around the world, and said people who tried to go over it would falloff. In the same way literal minded people draw the line at the spiritual world, and say people who go into it will find nothing. Their firmness is a little too determined. And there are those who prefer to see for themselves if there is the world Jesus spoke of.
Many men would rather stay behind in the spotlight of literalism and posture on cliffs of eternal despair. (Despair and kneeling are such dramatic poses.) And in the smug world of literalism, these write mountains on why there is no other world. In their mountains of truth the echoes of narcissism are heard.
Because when a generation says God is dead, we know it is because they wished God to be dead. In the mirror of their narcissism, they wished to be left alone. For the heart of man is like the mirror on the wall, and when asked the fairest, it says, God. And this makes man angry and he sets out to kill a fairer God, because he wishes to be left alone in the mirror of his narcissism. So something in everyone sets out to kill the Lord.
When we find things we do not understand, we should not conclude nothingness is the answer, because that may be what our narcissism wishes to find. Say, rather, some things have gone over the horizon of our understanding, and this is the way it should be with God.
Life in our society seems to offer the reasoning person only three alternatives: to become subhuman, to try to be superhuman or to take the escapist way of insanity.
Adjusting to the society of materialism, commercialized conformity, conventionality and the empty life around us is to accept subhumanity.
Trying to rise above our society is a doomed attempt to be superhuman. We are too enmeshed in our cultures and dependent upon social life to be able to rise completely above the community we live in. All - of us are entangled with bureaucracies, hopelessly and helplessly involved in systems, at the mercy of money, numbers to a computer. An attempt to be superhuman denies not only our social instincts but our need as people in a community to be human.
When it is wrong to resign oneself to conventional subhumanity and inevitably doomed to try to be superhumanly without social needs, the only alternative left is to evade the circumstances by some form of insanity. To imagine oneself as a king, or better than other people, or that others are plotting against us is a way out. But what a way out.
Religion seems the best hope in these circumstances. At its best it refuses to allow people to accept an immoral subhumanity because of social pressure. It teaches others to let God be God and not try to be superhuman and perfect or do everything. It does not present the world as crazy but shows a definite order and proportion.
Faith alone offers to everyone dignity and humanity. If in intelligence tests superior intelligence is proved by finding the correct fit for objects, then does not the correct fit prove an ordering intelligence too? The fit of a thing is a fact. Faith is where man fits now.
With the measure you use to measure, you may not be measured, because human nature is prone to false measures. Literal people devote a great deal of time to measuring but they always use morally false and literal measurements.
The, Pharisees devoted a great deal of time to moral measuring but they always used irrelevant measurements. Jesus allowed His disciples to pick corn on the Sabbath to eat. He saw the Sabbath keeping of the Pharisees in this matter was an irrelevant standard to measure the case by.
The literal tend to measure size in everything. It is the longest, the biggest, the oldest, the grandest. Literal people understand bigness, but they do not understand being. They prefer bigness to being. They are statistically minded and sensation oriented.
The veneer of civilization may cover these just as respectability covered the Pharisees Jesus called painted tombs. Because a man looks civilized, does not mean he is trying to be spiritually civilized. He may be the literal man who prefers the sensational, what can be shown dramatically, to the spiritually sensible which does not show off, the immediately clever to the permanently satisfying.
The history of Christianity has not only been men and women seeking after salvation, but of missing the moral measure. Literal men and barbarians have deflected excesses of energy down irrelevant paths. And in such times good men watch the world go panting by.
The man with energy running on the wrong path is running after vanity. The man giving careful attention to morality, but using a false measure, measures vanity. The preacher looked around in his time and said vanity, all is vanity, and these people are running for the sake of the wind.
When the, desires we work for are fulfilled, we are still lacking. What we thought we wanted is never enough. Our dreams took no account of reality. Because they were pleasant, they attracted us, but they were not enough to base a real life on.
If we concentrate on gaining our own shallow fantasies, we shall find the larger life passes us by. He who gains his, life shall lose it. In working for rigidly held fantasies, we lose the fuller life.
But any man who can give up forcing his desire upon others to work with what is, gains a new life that has more of a basis in reality. This life is fuller, mysterious and more enduring.
If any man can give up comic day dreams of desire, philosophical fantasies of ought, and rigid preconceptions about man's nature and find a fuller life in reality, how much more will those who live up a thinly literal Iife find a fuller Iife in faith?
Faith fulfills reality, not in a planned way, but in a larger and more mysterious way. For as new reality makes old dreams seem shallow, faith makes once Iiteral life seem shallow or ghostly.
The Gospels say, the man that loseth his life shall find it, but the man who finds his life shall lose it. What does a man gain if he obtains all his flat and silly dreams, but loses the new life of the expanding and mysterious soul?
The man who gains his fantasies will lose his life eventually, but the man who reaches out to the new life finds his old one seems vague. It seems only a remembered shadow in the new and fuller life of the soul in the Kingdom of God. He has found a life and lost one.
It is more pitiful to be a smug giver than to have to receive. If a jackal feeds off the dead, some men are emotional jackals who feed off the misfortunes of others: spiritually fat and patronizing jackals glutted with material superiority, looking for praise out of the side of their eyes for some meddling help. Jesus called these men tombs of inner corruption white- washed with respectability.
The God who loves a cheerful giver loves another kind of man. He appreciates a healthy generosity, the man who does not rub another's nose in advice. He prefers the wholesome intelligence that understands the tricks of fate, life's little blinkings, the good heart that gives affection with a gift.
For a little affection softens the resentment of having to take. Christ would have been resented, had He come haughtily to redeem us, for a man has his pride.
We accept Christ's sacrifice because we know it stems from genuine concern, which makes us humble rather than angry, for a man is always surprised when he is loved.
The Lord spoke of the widow's mite, for the widow felt what she gave, and this genuine sacrifice from love was a spiritual incense offered to, God. And He meant this is how God is worshipped. Of a little from each the Kingdom of Heaven is made. Let each bring his little to the storehouse and do not cheat God in cheerful understanding and affection.
The normal tendency of man is literalism; therefore, man is literal towards his problem solving. He will go from one-literal solution to another literal solution. Literalism has a thousand blind alleys, only the literal man believes he will find the one not empty at the end.
It is not that the literal man has not examined, but his examination lacks perspective. He is not raised above things by faith, so he can see them clearly in the way mapmakers get an aerial view, or in the way the artist steps back from his canvas. For this is the strength of the spiritual world: that it raises men to - perspective. The literal man may see what is, but he does not see what it is.
A man may go to a psychiatrist in order to have instant transcendence of a kind, but this is because man has lost the eye of faith, and must depend on another to supply vision for him. For he sees what is, but he does not see what he is. But the man of faith has this double vision: he sees what is and what he is. He has an eye for humanity and an eye above humanity.
The literal man will want this double vision of faith, and he will ask how, but the literal man expects a literal answer. The literal man will want a gadget, a technique or instant magic as children do. He does not really want the Kingdom of Heaven, but to manipulate the world.
If we try to lay hold of sin, it changes into contrary and diverse shapes, so that we are thrown off guard. For sin has a life like that of the wily leprechaun in the fairy tale who, when laid hold of, changed shapes a thousand times.
If we try to make ourselves humble, then we will be proud of being humble, and if we try to stop ourselves from being proud of being humble, we will be proud of our attempt to stop.
Sin is not something that we can lay hold of, but a state in which we are. Our sinful actions are merely signs of a universal illness, the fall of man, by which we are all become literal and delirious.
No man can cure the fever in which we are literal and delirious or avoid the retching violence thrown up by human nature. Only grace can quiet our pitching vanity or open our eyes to momentary saneness before that ultimate sleep. Never ask why men pray Christ to be delivered. It is from themselves.
We fear death because we are as children, fearing what we do not know, and no man wants to go to heaven tonight, nor do children ever want to go to bed. But, in the end, struggle as they may, He giveth His beloved sleep.
The death they say is a victory. Palms should be placed on the coffin. Songs of praises should be sung at the funeral.
If the Apostle is right, death is a triumph. And the Apostle is right, for Christ is risen, the first fruits of them that sleep. This is the heart of Christianity, the mystery and the seal of God upon the compassion of the man, Jesus, that He raised Him from the dead. That our Lord, having seen hell, sat up and screamed, and because He has seen it, we shall not.
We should not fear death, but rely upon the risen Christ, that sun of grace, whose warmth has never failed us and around whom we revolve, to unveil to us now the other side.
Let us not then disgrace God or ourselves, no cringing as barbarians, or resigning ourselves to hopelessness, which is the way of the inferior. Instead let us summon up our dignity, a people of God going down to death as a victory, believing all things, hoping all things. Christians and Protestants, saying, I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith. I have told the truth; therefore, for me, all the trumpets will sound on the other side. The hour of my departure has come. Ave atque vale. Hail and farewell.