Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Fear and Trembling

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” ~Philippians 2:12-13 (NRSV).

Elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NRSV), Paul compels the believers to, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.”

It is easy to find a knowledgeable Christian; easy to find someone involved in ministry; easy, in our Western world, to find Bibles—even one with its owner’s name and scrawl all the way through it; easy to find Christians committed to supporting those in the mission field; easy to find Hillsong-type conference-going Christians; comparatively easy to find Christians who put their money where their mouths are—who give a tithe back to their local church; and, easy to find Christians with powerful views on their faith and a theology backing their faith up.

What is not so easy to find is a vulnerable Christian; vulnerable before God and all humanity.

Vulnerable Christianity

The sort of Christian that Paul found in Corinth is commonly found, also, in Western Christianity. It’s a faith that pleases itself and is not under the true authority of God, much less others, including leaders of the church, and humble submission before fellow believers.

Such a faith does not commend itself to humility, but to ascendancy; the upward movement through the ranks of Bible-believing Christians and the church.

But, what use is it to fully load the wagon for a lifelong pilgrimage and not have a horse to couple to that wagon? Instead of wheels with which to transport our lives, we would be disabled, unable to make any trek, or we would need to go it alone, leaving all those possessions behind.

We must learn to leave our egos, as a constant sacrifice, at the altar of thanksgiving.

If we don’t, the pilgrimage will be forlorn; we will make no progress—our baggage will weigh us down.

That is Jesus’ point when he said, in Matthew 10:38 and Matthew 16:24 (NRSV): “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Jesus commends us to a vulnerable Christianity.

Indeed, it may be impossible to truly follow Jesus, from his statement above, if we insist upon carrying with us the baggage of our vices that preclude the essence of vulnerability.

A Daily Test

We would do well if we were to picture ourselves as Corinth believers.

This is not too far from the mark, because as we examine ourselves—testing ourselves; pricking and prodding our faith—we will find weakness and opportunity and compromise and lack. Undeniably, if we didn’t we would be unsuitable for heaven—we’d be found perfect, already.

Because that isn’t the case we ought to discover and rediscover, with fear and trembling that motivates the process of discipleship, the secrets of the cross we are missing out on. We ought to test ourselves for vulnerability.

Being Christian is a daily, moment by moment, test. It’s a process of working out our salvation by any means of faith to please God, and God alone; certainly not ourselves or to impress others.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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