when i became a follower of Jesus, i immediately had multiple questions about the ways i was supposed to engage the world from that point forward. what i mean is that i wanted to know about “the rules,” for lack of a better word…or perhaps the “how-should-we-act-when,” types of questions. this pertained to various avenues in my life…language, attitude, money, marriage, public appearance…and the list seemingly goes on ad infinitum. i wanted the guidelines and for someone to tell me how Christians are supposed to act…i literally wanted the rules…and believed that if i had them and followed them that i would be bringing a degree of happiness to the heart of God…like a proud Father of a son that has been obedient. this is how many of us view our faith, and it’s not a bad thing to want to know how to make the Father proud (albeit that is the wrong question)…but i’ve learned something about my faith…it cannot be contained within a set of rules that have been fabricated using materials and concepts from an existence to which my faith is not bound…did you get that?
let me rephrase it a bit…our faith is not about this world…it’s not bound to it…it’s SUPERnatural…not natural. our faith transcends the entropy and breakdown of this existence and touches the heart of the One with Whom this existence doesn’t know what to do…our faith is bound to eternity…and there’s more…it’s not bound to the temporal nature of this world…meaning it’s not going to come to an end…it’s the seminal stage of a relationship that will grow beyond what we call faith and move into a deeper sense of knowing in the coming age.
so this is the tension: trying to flesh out in our natural world that which is supernatural. trying to exhibit in a world that is overrun by death the reality that there’s more…and trying to explain to those devoid of true spiritual life the presence of the Spirit of life.
there’s an admonition that paul made to the church at galatia. they were struggling with the issues of incorporating legalism…rules…into a faith that was founded upon freedom from bondage…and paul was telling them not to do such a thing…and that to do so was to be “severed from Christ” (gal 5:4). he then went on and told them the answer that they, like us, had been desperately searching for…the answer about how all of this works…the answer about the guidelines…the answer about the rules…the answer about how to navigate this world in the midst of all the “what-do-we-do-when” hypotheticals…he said for them to “walk by the Spirit…” and they would not “…gratify the desires of the flesh” (gal. 5:16). well that clears it up for us, doesn’t it? that makes sense…class dismissed…we can all go home…mystery solved. i remember when i heard that phrase from a preacher the first time…i wanted to hurl something at him and yell from a heart of desperate longing, “HOW do we DO it?!” you must forgive preachers…we sometimes fail to be specific enough…sometimes we fail to give enough information about the things that are most important…and sometimes it’s because we really don’t know. but, in our defense…in this particular case…how do you communicate something supernatural and transcendent to the natural and finite…it’s like trying to teach algebra to a lizard…all the while not totally understanding it ourselves.
we can let that cripple us…and just continue to throw non-answers out there…or we can focus on what we can understand. i think there’s something about this that we can grasp…somewhat…maybe…and that is the reality of the situation. humanity exists in a fallen, death-filled, entropic system of decay that it celebrates more than it mourns…a system that is not at all like the Designer made it to be…a corrupted system into which we brought chaos…a system that Jesus entered into from eternity…bringing a message of hope…of promise…of life. then He gave Himself up for this world…in order that it may be redeemed…reconciled…restored…remade…and most of all…resurrected. He erupted from the grave in power and light…and He ascended in glory…and will return in majesty…because He has a future engagement to keep…an engagement to bring life where there is death…to bring vitality where there is decay.
in the meantime…He sent His Spirit…His presence…His power…to live within us and make us alive in a way that no one up to that time understood. and He said, through the pen of paul, that we should choose life…that we should live our lives as people that understand what resurrection means and as people that have His Spiritual blood coursing through our souls…alive…risen from the death we were born into…alive and hopeful and joyful about what we know is coming.
i don’t know all of the “how-to’s.” as a matter of fact, i don’t think i know many, but i do know that His Spirit is alive and well in me and rules are too small, and guidelines too narrow…because He is breathing for me…He is testifying inside of me… and what we need to do is follow His leadership, and when He speaks we can weigh it against what He has revealed to us (because He means what He has said)…and by doing this our lives will testify that we are very much alive inside of this death-ridden necrosis of existence…alive…and anticipating….