Arbtirary thoughts on nearly everything from a modernist poet, structural mathematician and functional programmer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Grace, Childishness and Service

Sully wrote this a few months ago; it's one of many truly inspired writings that have flown through him. I hope he doesn't mind me posting it here...

On thought, before I post it. At one point, he mentions knowing something versus knowing about something. I bring up this point often, but only I believe it is a crucial concept to understand. German has different words for each idea. "I know something" would be translated "Ich weiss etwas". The infinitive of the word (to know) is wissen. It implies knowledge of a concept or idea; one would also say "Ich weiss Tom" to mean that he knows about Tom-- has knowledge regarding who Tom is, etc.
"I know Tom" as we say in English would be translated "Ich kenne Tom." The infinitive is kennen. It implies a familiarity, an understand of and closeness with. "Ich kenne etwas" (I am familiar with something) has a similar-- although weaker-- meaning to "I grok something."

Sully brings up this point (briefly) in the essay. God calls us to know Him-- Gott Kennen; not to know about Him-- Gott Wissen.
Anyway, Cheers (I know it's long...):

** The definition and presence of Grace **

The foundation of a Christian life is Christ. This means, more than anything, that we are founded on Grace, for that is Christ’s purpose. He came for us who were unworthy of the favor of God’s presence. We were unworthy not by judgment, but by action because we chose to step from that Presence into the darkness that is absent Him. Thereby we drew ourselves away from God, not He from us.
Having stepped into darkness, we were lost and unable to ever find Him there, for though we may or may not be able to persevere the breadth and width of darkness by religion and other machination, God does not exist in that darkness and thereby can not be found by us who do exist in darkness. Christ is God reaching through the darkness to find us and offer to us His hand that we might again walk with Him. For that was certainly his purpose, that God and all God’s love and blessings should come to us who were otherwise eternally incapable of finding that Presence – this is Grace.
By Grace we are able to enjoy a Fellowship and a Blessing that we could never attain by our own strength. By Grace we who are only capable of at best the most righteous unrighteousness, should be considered (and by being considered, made) truly righteous and able to be near Him who can not coincide with unrighteousness. By Grace, through mysteries indefinite and unresolvable, the presence of God comes without the need of our own understanding or thought.
All Grace requires is choice and by choice action: The choice of accepting the hand outstretched through darkness to us. The choice to recognize the presence of that hand and recognize the necessity of that hand for ever finding God. The choice to give up our comfortable familiarity with uncomfortable darkness and step into an uncomfortable unfamiliarity with all that is truly secure and comfortable. The choice to continue laying every step beside God’s after being brought beside him. The choice to not again step back into darkness. And the choice, when again stepped back into darkness, to accept the loving hand instantly reaching down through darkness to pick us back up from our stumble. Grace is attained only by this choice. Grace is attained only by this action. If we do not choose to accept the hand and choose to walk beside God as he leads and choose to let him pick us back up and choose to simply recognize his hands and our darkness, we have no part with Grace. We then have no part with God and no part with ever being brought out of the darkness. We then choose and by action have sentenced ourselves to living eternally absent God and living eternally absent the Heaven where he does exist.
So it is that only by a persistent walk with God and acceptance of Grace and fellowship with Christ we can receive life. As Christians, we say these things and accept these ideas with lips that swear our hearts know that truth. However, on this point we are liars, for the majority of us are not graceful people. It is this absence of Grace that makes us besmear the label of “Christians”, depend yet on our own strength, judge with envy or malice those around us, and ultimately lose salvation by desecrating our faith down to the same worthlessness of all other religions.
And yet we say, “Yes, I am imperfect, I know that. But that’s just the point. I am allowed to be an imperfect sinner and yet have God and Salvation.” And yet, in saying this statement, otherwise full of truth, we are completely and utterly wrong. For this statement only applies to those who attempt to overcome their imperfection. It only applies to those who begrudge and hate their sin and wish it washed away. Essentially, it only applies to those who hate the darkness and long for the light. As we often say it, and as it was said above, what we really say and really believe is that we are free to yet live in darkness and still have the gift of God’s presence. And this is this same as saying that darkness can exist within full and absolute light - a contradiction that a child can easily see and make fun of, and yet we make ourselves as dumb as adults to believe it.
The true nature of Grace and the true and only power of “Being saved by Grace” are caught up entirely in the calling of Levi. Jesus walks through the city, sees Levi sitting at his tax booth, and walking up to him, says, “Follow me.” Levi could never have brought Jesus there. He could never have found the offering of fellowship with him. And that is why it is an offering of Grace that Jesus walks up and asks him to follow. However, the bestowing and acceptance of this Grace only occurs, that is the fellowship of a life spent in the presence of God only occurs, when Levi responds and “leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” If he had not followed he could not have possibly walked with and talked with and known who Jesus was - he would have refused Grace. Certainly he would have ultimately heard an awful lot about Jesus and possibly even developed an awful lot to say in favor of the things he did, but he would not have know him. This is how we have become as Christians today. We have heard a lot of about God and have developed a lot to say about God, but we know him not. And why? Simply because we choose not to accept Grace and walk with him. We choose to keep our place in darkness rather than be lifted up into Light.
All of us who are offended by these words testify by our own offense that Grace is not in us. For Grace can not be offended, for it is the absence of judgment and prejudice and pride. Grace is the administration of God’s love and as such bears all things that love has and carries nothing that love does not. As Christ says through Paul, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” And yet, how many of us love like this? If we do not appear to love like this, then it must certainly also appear that Grace is not in us.

** The presence of self-righteousness in the absence of Grace **

Self-righteousness is the opposite of Grace, just as the darkness of sin is the opposite of God’s light. Self-righteousness is the belief that ones’ own efforts can bring them into the presence of God. It is the belief that Light can be found in darkness. It is the perpetual selfish searching for things that do not exist at the cost of what little does exist. And yet, is it so surprising that so many are self-righteous? Should they be judged and dismissed for being self-righteous? No! Rather, those who are neither in Grace nor self-righteous are all the more foolish. For the self-righteous recognizes the need to find the Divine above all else and merely disregards the Only Way. The other is foolish enough to also disregard and lie about their own hunger. If one does not accept Grace then what other strength can you possibly believe will ever bring you life but your own? And, as for those in Grace, they will never look in judgment upon the self-righteous but rather look with eyes of patient and empathetic love, just as they will look upon all who are outside Grace.
The pattern of self-righteousness is this, all who are deemed beneath one’s righteousness are generally ‘loved’ and all those who are deemed unfairly above one’s righteousness are always enviously hated. All who are beneath the righteousness of the self-righteous are loved in the most perverse sense of benign indifference. They serve the self-righteous person in that by being beneath him or her, they are believed to lift him or her up closer to the Divine. As such, the self-righteous are willing to be benevolent to these under-souls and also match their benevolence with a thousand times the evil by stepping on the backs of these under-souls and press-ganging them to abide by whatever boundaries of self-righteousness they suggest will lead to the Divine. Those who will not be press-ganged into the self-righteous person’s particular religion, or otherwise suggest the true unrighteousness of the self-righteous, become competition and are hated.
Those who follow the self-righteous person’s views but appear more righteous can either be hated, or accepted in the same way as the under-souls. By being above they can seem closer to the Divine and thereby offer both an affirmation of the self-righteous person’s methods as well as present a human ladder for the self-righteous person to pull themselves higher. In that case those above are ‘loved.’ Alternatively, those above may be seen as obstacles of separation to the divine and by their presence confirm how unrighteous the self-righteous person truly is. In such a case, it is but the logical choice to hate and envy.
Those people who are both outside the self-righteous person’s beliefs of righteousness, appear to be about equivalently as righteous, and who suggest that the self-righteous person is unrighteous, are hated with passion. This is particularly true if such a person otherwise abides by nearly the exact same patterns and beliefs of righteousness. For, in this case, not only is the self-righteous person in struggle for closeness to the Divine, but they are being told that their struggling is incorrect and thereby become even less righteous than they had thought they were.
Of course, all of these words can be confusing, and on this particular previous point it is perhaps of especial benefit to provide an example: Sam believes that it is ok to drink alcohol with friends and be a Christian because Sam otherwise follows all the proper rules of conduct and goes to church and participates in a small group. Hunter, from Sam’s small group, tells Sam that drinking alcohol is ungodly and sinful and that Sam is a poor Christian unless Sam repents of drinking alcohol. They have an argument on this point and begrudge each other about it. Later, Sam sees their pastor give recognition to Hunter for being an exemplary Christian. Sam now enviously hates Hunter. In this case, both Sam and Hunter are self-righteous and thereby both are absent of Grace and thereby also absent of Christ. They have forsaken Christ’s hand for belief that following the straightest lines drawn in darkness will give them a path to Him. They merely argue about whose line is straighter. And yet, both are in fact in darkness. And yet, the hand of God and Christ’s Grace is right there reaching down to them, begging them to take it again or for the first time, depending on if they ever took it before.
Another example that perhaps will touch the reader’s soul better is this: Sam and Hunter have never officially met but are aware of each other’s presence as members of the same church. Hunter has been working hard helping her church. She has been making bulletins and organizing meetings and orchestrating prayer gatherings and leading a small group. Hunter has never seen Sam do anything for the Church. Hunter hears their pastor say that Sam is an incredible Christian and that Sam means a lot to the body of Christ. Hunter now envies Sam and while she will not admit it, actually hates her simply by the fact that she refuses to love her. In this case it appears that Hunter is the only one that is self-righteous and the only one whose monstrous efforts do more to help her reject Grace than bring her close to Christ.
For a final look to expound upon this point of self-righteousness and the absence of Grace, I will return to the example of Levi: Jesus looks across the market and sees Levi, a tax collector, and walking past Rabbi’s and the most ‘righteous’ and worthy of men, goes up and invites the rather ‘unrighteous’ Levi, not the Rabbi’s and Scribes, to walk with him and absorb his love. This simple fact that God is ignorant of all personal effort is what makes grace into Grace. And does this seem wrong? Well, from the framework of self-righteousness it is wrong. If you believe that your personal effort is necessary then you will begrudge those who have God’s love despite lack of effort. That exchange of love is proof that you and all your pride are wrong and that your ideas and efforts are worthless.
The trouble with all this is that it leaves us at the point of the contemporary church, which has accepted that it is not by our efforts but by God’s effort that we know Him. And again, this is true. What is wrong is that we have extrapolated this to mean that Faith only requires God’s effort and not our own. Which really means that we have rejected the idea that we need to take God’s hand to be lifted up by Grace. This leaves us at the point of being able to stay in sin and conduct our lives of darkness, living in richness and sloth saying, “If God intends differently, then He will make it so.” And the truth is that God will make it so. He will overwhelm Earth by the presence of Heaven and the old will go. The new will come – and we will not be a part of it because we did not step from the old when he asked us to walk with Him. We will be in Hell for having rejected Grace.
Now, if we have rejected Grace, then it would seem, as mentioned before, that most of us would fall back into self-righteousness. And that has been outlined somewhat above and many will be able to prove or lie well enough that they are not part of that self-righteousness. However, for us Christians that have rejected Grace by the false belief that we need make no action and that it is all about God, we are left with an entirely different sort of self-righteousness. We come to the point of saying that we have Grace simply by believing in it. That is, we think that it is what we think that grants us God’s love - so we have descended to a self-righteousness not of physical actions but of thoughts.
We argue theology day by day. We pick and choose our spiritual heroes. We form lines in the sand over how we understand particular points. We become upset and horrified at people thinking differently than us - And we are self-righteous and absent Grace and know not Christ.
Now these points are particularly subtle, extraordinarily so. This is why this is the latest and greatest of Satan’s defeats to our Faith. For is it necessary that we believe in Christ and the necessity of Grace and in the love of God? Yes, most definitely – And yet we can believe such words and not have any of those! In fact, we can believe many many more words than all that and have even less!
The trouble comes down to the fact that all these thoughts still have not accepted Grace. You can believe all you want that Christ’s hand is reaching down to you and that it is necessary for you to take it, but if you do not take it you simply do not have it. The act of taking that hand does requires the thought to take that hand and we have failed by equating simply thinking about taking that hand with actually taking it. So in this way we are left in a world of thoughts and absent Grace.
Our self-righteousness becomes one of imagining that if we think hard enough and strong enough and with enough conviction about the means and method of taking God’s hand and the shape of that hand and about where that hand is going to lift us, we will have attained what that hand offers. In simpler terms, if someone invites me and my friend to a walk in the park and we say no and instead imagine walking in the park, have we actually walked in the park? I might make a better guess than my friend at what the weather is like in the park and my friend might make a better guess at how long the walk will be and we both might well enough predict where the walk would traverse, but have either of us actually walked in the park? And yet, we delude ourselves into believing that if we imagine well enough and accurately enough about the walk in the park it is the same as walking in the park! We as Christians believe that if we imagine and believe and know enough things about God and Christ and Grace we will have those things!!!
And so it is that we argue and envy and despise anyone who contradicts us or our thoughts on Christ. We hate and judge in proportion to how overtly contradictory their assertion is to whatever ideas we have accepted. And in all of this, we know the least part of Christ and Grace. To be fair, we may even know accurately about these things, but we do not know these things! Do you meet someone’s strange assertions about God with curiosity and love, or at the very least sympathy? If not, then you are intellectually self-righteous and know not grace. For if you knew Grace you would not need your self-righteousness and would not need to violently argue or judge your fellow human brother or sister. You would not feel threatened. You would not feel frustrated. You would not be absent of love. You would not be absent of Christ. – And yet, even here, in this error, Christ waits with loving arms, not just hands, waiting to pick us up and let us truly know him and love!
To see how incredible this Grace is, let us return again to Levi. When Jesus walked up to Levi, was it necessary for Levi to know this was Jesus? If Levi did not know that this was Jesus. If in contradiction to all other evidence he thought it was some random bum off the street, and yet followed, would he have received any less of the blessings of Christ? Of course not! You see that the Grace is in the following, not in the knowing or thinking. Now, if Levi were to have made believe that Jesus did not exist and that no one was calling him to follow, would he have missed Grace? Yes. However, as long as we recognize Christ’s presence and follow, whether we believe him teacher, beggar, liar, or even Jesus, nothing else matters – there is the same benefit for all perspectives! Levi has shown us that all that matters is following, and that as long as we follow, false beliefs and thoughts can do nothing to us! Such is the wonder of Grace!

** A note on the usefulness of correction **

All of the discussion presented so far has relied greatly on what Grace does not look like to provide proof of its absence. Henceforth, it is of interest to talk, in more hopeful and brilliant life, about what Grace is and how it benefits. In both the former and proceeding cases of negative and positive, the contradictions presented are for the purpose of showing the need to seek out and accept Christ and Grace. On this point, it is the nature of Grace and Christ to point out errors and fallacies, which we Christians certainly do well enough. However, the entire urgency of Graceful pointing is absolutely for the purpose of directing hearts to Christ. By pointing out lack of love to the Pharisees, Christ was pointing out the need for love and thereby the need for himself. It was out of love and the desire to lead others into His Grace that Christ corrected others. This is the only useful means of contradiction. To contradict as we do today, simply for the sake of ‘asserting truth’, is to waste breath and at its best, is merely a means of sustaining self-righteousness. To contradict for the sake of opening another’s eyes that they might see Christ and then long after Him better, not just for ‘opening another’s eyes’, is the only benefit of contradiction. Contradiction as a means purely of judging another and finding them incorrect is a motivation of pride and sin. In one is self-service, in the other love and selflessness.
Further, the nature of Christ does not actually care about the correction of things pointed out. That is, errors are irrelevant in contrast to the need of Christ they point out. In this way Grace does not seek to instruct others in a manner of correcting appearances, but in the manner of seeking Christ. If anything is amiss, Grace instructs ignorance of that error and focus on Christ and from the focus on Christ correction of that error (and correction of many other errors unmentioned and unperceivable) will come. In this way one does not say, “You are not caring for you neighbor” with the intent of the offender actually then going and caring for their neighbor. Rather, they say it with intent that they go and accept the Grace of Christ. And then following this acceptance, the offender will be filled with such love that can not but help caring for their neighbor, (and their brother, and their parents, and those living in distant cities, and all of creation.) All of this is the manner of Christ’s correction, and it cares least of all about focus on correcting any error pointed out. It abides that error quietly in love for the sake of love that the one in wrong may find God’s love. This is Grace, and if it were not this way, none of us could ever stand under the burden of all our faithlessness.

** The necessity and birth of Childishness by Grace **

Grace is God giving us his love and blessings without any other requirement upon us than that we acknowledge and follow Christ. The blessings of God are the assurance of his ultimate rescue through all things, the assurance of his ultimate eternal presence, and the assurance of his ultimate unending sustenance in the realm of Heaven. In a word, Security. The blessings of God are Security. They are a security unlike any security the world offers. This Security is what people long after when they seek the Divine through the plans of all their self-righteousness. And, quite simply, it is for this reason that Grace frees us from self-righteousness and any effort of our own to attain Security. We have Security as a perpetual guarantee written upon our hearts and are thereby free to give up all the struggles of the world.
Now, if we have Security without the need of self-righteousness, what things does this means we can give up and cast off? Mostly, it means that we can give up all the rules imposed by the self-righteous and we can give up the need for strength. For truly, the only purpose of gathering strength in this world is for self-righteousness. In the world of Christ’s Light, He desires to be our strength and wash our feet and give us ease. This does not mean that we will not gain strength, for actually we gain far more strength by Grace than we ever would have by our most violent efforts – again, such is Grace. What this simply means is that we need not be focused on gathering and accounting for strength.
The greatest antonym known today for strength and pedantry of rules, is childishness. And what is childishness? Childishness is the naïve belief that one is protected, secure, can play whatever, can run free without a single care and all this for merely trusting completely and again naively in the absolute power and love of a parent. Effectually, Childishness is then Christianity, for God is our Perfect Parent.
Now, some will say that there are still rules even here, and that will be gotten to, but for the mean time consider that all of this is exactly what Christ intended when he called us to meet him like children. We were called to fear not the world’s judgment, to play each day of our life, and to depend completely and ultimately on him with the same clinginess of any child. For that is exactly what it means to be a child. And if we do truly believe in Christ and accept Grace and have Security, then why should we not be this way? As everything we are to have comes through Grace by God’s power and not the world’s, then we really do not need fear anything the world can do to us. If we are freed by Grace from the struggles and efforts of attaining Security, then what is left to do but play each and every moment of our lives? And if all of this does come by Grace from Christ, then how can we not ravenously and fearfully check every moment to see that Christ is always there beside us within grasp? This is all the pattern of a true Christian life. These are the trappings of Grace.
Childishness can not exist within the world of strength and self-righteousness. Pure childishness requires the complete and perfect service of another. If self-righteousness is all about what we can do for ourselves, and a child is meant to trust to have to do nothing for themselves, then self-righteousness seeks to kill the child. And how does it do this, rather, how do we in all our self-righteousness do this? Day by day we demand and require children to learn how to support themselves. We tell them day by day to play less, to do more for themselves, and to behave in a manner of fearing what the world will do to them. We do not teach them that they can be children and have Security, but rather that Security is only attained by killing the child in them. We teach them this because we were taught this because the world taught us this. And that is exactly the point; the world taught us this, not Christ. If we truly had Grace, we would not teach this to our children and to each other. We would simply have no need to teach and propagate this living death of self-righteousness. We would see how much better it is to become children. More than that, we would be instantly transformed by Grace into children as that is all that would be left to us after being lifted out of darkness.
In the world of the self-righteous, the weak serve the strong. For the strong force the weak to serve, doling out strength and the promise of Security as a reward for service. Strength is a necessity to force one’s way to the top and hopefully somehow attain Security. And no weak or strong person can do anything to change this system because there is always someone stronger enforcing the system.
In the world of Grace, the strong serve the weak. For the strong have no need of serving themselves since they (and the weak) have Security. And as the strong are strong, it makes little sense that it should be any other way than that they should serve the weak. Quite simply, the strong are much better at serving the weak than the weak are at serving the strong. By the presence of Love through Grace, it is the desire of everyone to serve everyone else. There is no frustration in this service and no conflict over serving - as that is not the loving desire to serve another but the hateful and selfish desire to serve one’s own plans and pride. Graceful service bears total patience, total empathy, and total joy. No one bemoans their weakness. No one bemoans the modesty of their service - for cares about the gloriousness of one’s abilities and the grandness of service are cares only of the self-righteous who still struggle for Security. Those in Grace do not only think they are freed, but are actually freed from this care. And, in the world of Grace, since each person has Security, each person rarely has any need, and play predominates and play becomes service. In truth, play is nothing more than the desire to serve expressing itself through each player pretending to have a need to be served. Each pretends to be less than they are that the other might be more. This is true playfulness and true Childishness. All of this is true Grace.
Now, as far as rules are concerned within the freedom of Childishness in Christ, rules are the commands of God. However, they are no different than the rules of earthly parents: “Look both ways before you cross the street”, “Brush your teeth before you go to bed”, “Don’t hit your sister”. Each of these rules is intended for our protection and uplifting and each of these rules requires no more strength or effort than we already have. And this is the difference between the world’s rules and the rules of the true God. They are not burdensome, are not filled with malice, and do not demand our ‘growth’ and the death of our childish nature. As such, these rules are nothing more than God in all his strength serving us who are weaker, and require in no way self-righteousness or strength in trade for love. If they did, they would be rules of the world and not gifts of God.
Grace creates the Childishness commanded by Christ. Without this Childishness, there cannot be Grace. And if there is not Grace, there is not Christ. And yet, with Grace, the constantly offered Grace, look what life there is! Look, to be a child, to be free, to have Security, and to have Christ, all for ever! And what does Christ ask!? Merely that you follow him and accept Grace!

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