Saturday, March 19, 2005

What do people see when they look at me?

What do people see when they look at me? The first thing they probably notice is that I am male. They might notice that I have dark hair or brown eyes, or that I am pigeon toed. If they observe for a while, they will take note that I am left-handed. O but if only people could observe me and recognize that I am a Christian.

Now the first problem with this statement is that due to our broken humanity and to the natural diversity of humankind, Christian has many different connotations depending on the observer's experiences and exposure. For this discussion, let me re-phrase with “recognize that I am a disciple of Christ” in the purest Biblical sense.

Skirting around semantics, do people quickly detect some subtle difference in me from others—a positive difference; a difference in spirit, demeanor, and actions towards others? Do they smell the aroma of Christ? [ 2 Cor. 2:14-17]. Have I gotten to the point where my discipleship is no longer the external actions of someone trying to be a good Christian (conscious behavior), but to which it has become the fundamental me (subconscious behavior)? Is my Christianity no longer a claim or allegiance, but as much a characteristic of my being as is being male, brown-eyed, and left-handed? Have I evolved to where discipleship is a natural, inherent part of me thereby driving my emotions and actions more subconsciously than consciously?

The answer is no I have not. It is very rare that any human can obtain this level of discipleship, but I won’t say one cannot because I have witnessed a few such people. I also do not believe this is a matter of perfection. It is a matter of letting Christ live completely in me. The transformation available to me through His incarnation. This is neither an easy process nor an automatic one. The process takes hard work, study, and prayer, and spiritual discipline— permanent vigilance. I have found that I rarely have the stamina for this process. Nevertheless, is important that I continually strive for this state. I learn through the effort, even when I fail, maybe more so when I fail. Most importantly, I progress.

I was challenged last week in my personal study by this statement: “We need to stop telling our non-believing neighbors how wrong their way of life is, and we need to start showing the power of the gospel in the way we live.”
-- Bill Tibert, unpublished sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Colorado Springs, CO., 23 May 1993. Cited in Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 458. Cited in Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press), 45.

I have found Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship to be an important resource for challenging my understanding of discipleship. It has also been very beneficial in eliminating the brainwashing I have undergone by society and unfortunately by the Church at times (Church in the larger sense, not necessarily individual congregations). I also have added James Woodroof’s The Aroma of Christ to my book wish list as part of my walk in (toward) the Spirit.

NEXT WEEK: Discipleship and Athletic Allegiance (maybe I will have a better title by then.)


Phil said...

The question I have is this: Do our churches help facilitate this level of discipleship or the mile wide, inch deep type of spirituality?

Tony Arnold said...

Phil, A mentoress (?) once said to me, "sometimes it is enough if I can just change myself."

I am still struggling with changing myself, in fact, I feel like I have only just begun to make real, fundamental changes.

But not to dodge the question: I believe Churches are as varied as the humans that make them. Some churches are doing a great job and many are not.

That reminds me of this quote:

May we always remember that the Church exists to lead men to Christ in many and varied ways, but it is always the same Christ.

-- A plaque at the path entrance to statues at Gethsemani Abbey, Trappist, KY: In memory of Jonathon M Daniel. Episcopal seminarian martyred in Alabama Aug. 20, 1965. Donated to the Monastery by William Coolidge of Boston, MA. Walker Hancock sculptor. The statues were donated in honor of the young seminarian who traveled to Alabama during the civil rights movement. Witnessing an escalating argument between a young women and a law enforcement officer who raised his weapon to shoot, he stepped in and took the bullet for her.

Matt said...

Aroma of Christ is a good book. I thought about using it for small group curriculum but it is a little too thick and would probably have to be adapted.