Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wisdom of Christ: Taste and See

Why believe in Christ? The late philosopher C.S. Lewis explained:

• I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. (Guinness, 27)

There’s a lot of evidence of things that can be seen and touched about the Christian faith. Jesus performed many miracles – something even attested to by later Jewish writings. There’s also a mountain of fulfilled prophecies. However, Christianity is not just a matter of what can be seen, but also of what can be seen or illuminated by its light. Specifically, I want to examine Christ’s light – His wisdom:

FINDING THE PERFECT WIFE, COMMUNITY, AND GURU: I had thought that I’d find happiness once I found the right community. In 1970, as a Zionist, I moved to Israel expecting that once I’d find the right Kibbutz – a collective, socialistic, agricultural settlement – I’d be happy. However, I found no such thing. I also thought that I’d find the right teacher (guru) and wife who’d make me happy, but this didn’t happen either.

Starting out with the wrong ideas/presuppositions, I doomed my search even before I began. Later, in Christ, I learned that perfection – especially human perfection – was nowhere to be found in this world. Instead, we need to prepare ourselves to find the opposite. Although we are created in the image of God, things have changed since then, as Jesus had warned:

• This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

If we have become lovers of “darkness,” we can expect darkness from our teachers and trouble from our spouses. (And we can also dish out our own!) This means that it is wise to not place unqualified trust in anyone, as Scripture advises:

• It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8-9)

It took me many disappointments to learn that if I place unqualified trust in a friend, teacher or even a spouse, I will be disappointed and hurt. When my expectations for others are too high, I will resent them for letting me down. However, if my hope is ultimately in the Lord, I have peace. I don’t have to worry that others will let me down. Indeed, God doesn’t give me everything that I want, but I know Him well enough to know that He has a loving reason for disappointing me.

Scripture has given me a new set of lenses. I’ve learned that if certain people look perfect, I’m not seeing correctly. Instead, we’re all sinners who need the Savior. Knowing this, we are not as readily taken in by appearances.

FINDING SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-TRUST: While, these are touted by Western civilization as great virtues, Jesus saw them for what they are – self-delusion and denial. Jesus took the Pharisees to task for their love of money and their denial of this sin:

• He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.” (Luke 16:15)

When something “is detestable in God's sight,” it is also something that will turn against us, like any addiction. Jesus told a parable about someone who went into the Temple to pray. However, God didn’t even hear his prayer because he trusted in his “own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (Luke 18:9), thereby condemning himself:

• I [Jesus] tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified [and forgiven] before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)

This was another lesson I had to learn the hard way. The more I tried to exalt myself, the more self-absorbed and self-deluded I became, and the more I needed to prove myself. I found that self-trust was a drug that offered diminishing returns.

Instead, Jesus taught the counter-intuitive truth that to maximize ourselves we have to minimize ourselves. We have to die to our self-preoccupations and self-promotion:

• For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

I had to learn how to see my life through the lens of His life. It’s all about Him and not about my goodness or deservedness! Ironically, when I put Him first (Matthew 6:33), He put me first. When I learned this, I also learned how to transfer the huge burden of self, which was resting painfully on my shoulders, onto His willing and able shoulders. I was finding that the Bible was illuminating for me an accurate psychological roadmap, guiding me from dysfunctionality to vitality.

FINDING FORGIVENESS: An atheist friend explained why he no longer believed in freewill. He had struggled with painful feelings of guilt. However, he found that by proactively denying that he had any freewill and that he was programmed to do whatever he did, his guilt was diminished. However, this trade-off left him confused. If we are all pre-programmed to do everything we do, then, no one is ever guilty and no one should be punished or even praised. Nor should we seek justice against a mugger, any more than we should indict a virus or a cancer for its “crime.”

Instead, Christ offered forgiveness without cost or intellectual compromise. His forgiveness doesn’t diminish us by depriving us of freewill. Instead, it frees us from this psychological masturbation and cleanses us so that we can have the liberty to be transparent and non-defensive about who we really are. It also encourages us to live responsibility and to take criticism constructively.

My friend’s roadmap might have brought him to his chosen destination, but he didn’t realize the tolls he would have to pay on route.

Being free from guilt and shame no longer requires a constant infusion of praise and accolades but instead the humble and truthful acknowledgement that we are sinners who need the Savior Jesus.

FINDING PSYCHOLOGICAL REST: Psychological perks had always been associated with personal achievement. When I achieved, I found psychological rest, although this never lasted for long. When I failed to achieve, I experienced self-devaluation and depression. I was a prisoner in chains who desperately sought liberation, but the only liberation I knew was to slavishly pursue the next increasingly illusive achievement. Into this bondage, Jesus reaches out with the only adequate life-preserver on the watery horizon:

• Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

His burden is one that I have gladly exchanged for my own. I have found such relief and blessedness in taking His “yoke” upon me that I couldn’t dream of living without it.

It’s not simply that Christ has brought me so many tangible benefits. He’s also allowed me to see, understand and to peacefully follow along life’s highways. He has placed the ultimate roadmap into our hands, enabling us to navigate this difficult life without getting too bruised up in the process. He is the sun who illuminates all else.

At this point, many will baulk that this isn’t a proof at all. Well, it’s a different kind of proof – one that requires that the reader is somewhat in touch with her inner life and is able to recognize that a false philosophy is a false guide which causes needless hurt and confusion. I can only pray that this Christian roadmap might be seen for what it is – a guide to truth and freedom. If there is any question about this, Jesus invites the seeker to try it out:

• If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

No comments:

Post a Comment