Friday, January 10, 2014

Selfless and Supreme Self-Sufficiency

Ironies and paradoxes and enigmas galore,
The Christian has the best of these,
In a life they can explore,
One of these twists is to be self-sufficient,
To be able to have autonomy,
And not be deficient.
“It is only in Christ, in spiritual union with him, that the Christian is ατάρκης, self-sufficient. His presence gives strength to do and suffer all things (comp. 2 Cor. 12:9).”[1]
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
— Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
The meaning of Philippians 4:13 – as proposed by its author: Paul, the Apostle – includes the idea of self-sufficiency in Christ. This is a paradoxical concept and seemingly an oxymoron. How can someone be ‘in Christ’ yet self-sufficient?
To have autonomy – because we are trusted by God to continually enter self-awareness and to think theologically through everything – is to be free of worldly deficiency; besides the flesh – which always inhibits.
The cognitive position for Paul – his thinking mode – controls his perception of his situation, no matter the outer circumstance. His heart can feel and it can inform his thought, but his emotions don’t control his thinking, because he conforms his thinking to Christ. His thinking has primacy, because he can reflect over the faithfulness of God, from a long history of knowing God’s blessed deliverance. He has endured the harsh things, so, therefore, God has given him strength through Christ.
Supreme self-sufficiency is not comparable to the worldly self-sufficiency in a dichotomy of extremes. They are worlds apart. Supreme self-sufficiency is entirely selfless because of the comprehensive reliance on the strength that being as Christ provides.
In this state of Christian adventure nothing is beyond our enduring of it and all joys may be contained such that we will not be spoiled by them. So there is both patient long-suffering and contented containment: contentment all around.
Being in Christ is the only safe autonomy – the only autonomy that lasts and that can be sustained. It is an autonomy of being subject to one, which, by virtue of that doesn’t appear to be autonomy at all. But this autonomy is true, because we are swayed neither by outer circumstances nor by people who might otherwise influence us negatively. This autonomy is about investing in relationships and life that take us into the territory of growth in God.
The only good and healthy self-sufficiency is that where God reigns supreme over our hearts and minds. It is an autonomy where the world doesn’t intrude and influence, but where God speaks cogently in all circumstances, whether those circumstances involve joy or suffering or anything else.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Philippians (p. 158). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

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