September 21, 2012 - Live to Reflect Christ
By Jerry D. Scott
Henri Nouwen’s theology is far more liberal than mine, but I resonate with one experience about which he wrote in one of his books.
Nouwen felt God leading him to live in a Trappist monastery for seven months. This brilliant man, a university professor and prolific writer, believed he would thrive in the quiet of the monastic life … until he was there for a few days. Nouwen found himself searching the mailbox, waiting for calls, hungering even for another monk to show him some attention. His mood darkened to depression and then anxiety.
These were his thoughts, recorded in his journal: “My lifestyle became part of our contemporary desire for ‘stardom.’ I wanted to say, write or do something ‘different’ or ‘special’ that would be noticed and talked about. ... You can even preach the gospel in such a way that people are led to believe nobody had thought of that before. In all these situations you end up with applause because you did something sensational” (“The Genesee Diary”).
Nouwen’s experience with anonymity in a community dedicated to quiet sameness in contemplation and service of Christ led him to a new understanding of Christ’s own surrender described in Scripture: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5-7, NIV). This is not self-hatred. It is not a call to leave our gifts undeveloped. It is a revelation of a life that is content with being all and only who Christ makes us. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Does the moon pine for its own radiance? No. It’s function is to reflect the sun. That lump of rock in the sky captivates us only because of the glory of another heavenly body. When we give away our need to be noticed and become content to live to reflect Christ’s radiance, a deep peace settles over us, a contentment that is unattained by any degree or award man can give.
American Christianity has turned the gospel inside out, making it a way to reach our highest personal potential, as if Christ came to fulfill all our fantasies and make us into little gods! Ponder the call of Jesus. He asks each of us to give up our life, to take up our cross, to die to self. Does that sound like a path of misery? Think again! His promise is true: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
How much of your time is spent making your own life more pleasant, looking for some diversion to amuse you, seeking for some taste to delight your palate? Those who have the resources to buy attention or the power to make others bend to their will can, and often do, become more and more obsessed with protecting their place, burnishing their reputation, noticing and craving the respect of others. Take away their audience, and they are miserable shells of humanity. They cannot be alone, for they do not exist apart from what they do in public. Christ offers to give us an inner life, to let us commune with Him. The paradox is that in Him we become real, content and rich in that which cannot be taken away.
Here is a word from the Word: “Dearest friends, … put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. Hold tightly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:12-16, NLT).
— Jerry D. Scott is senior pastor at Faith Discovery Church (Assemblies of God) in Washington, N.J.