Monday, September 12, 2005

J'ai soif

Preacher and author Andrew Murray once wrote, "Wherever there is life, there is a continual interchange of taking in and giving out...The one depends on the other - the giving out ever increases the power of taking in...It is only in the emptiness that comes from the parting with what we have, that the divine fullness can flow in."

Several colleagues have recently expressed concern to me about the common analogy of the Christian as a "conduit" of God's love - directed from God to us and then out into the world. Their concern, it seems, is that this idea reduces the Christian to very little as a person - reducing his/her identity to something like a pipe and no more. "Where," they argue, "is the affirmation of the Christian's identity as a beloved child of God?"

I admit that this is something I had not considered, and am currently wrestling with...this notion of individual identity and our loving interaction with others around us. The "conduit analogy" was common in my spiritual upbringing, and I have found it useful tool in both personal reflection and apologetic discourse at various points in my life. Reflexively, I'm simply not quite ready to give it up.

There seems to be tension in Scripture as to whether we find our identity "in Christ alone" (thus implicitly subsuming our identity or possibly losing it completely), or if it is precisely Christ's message of redemption and restoration is exactly what validates us as 'individuals' (in the theological, and not socio-political sense) and calls us to be 'priests' and 'children of God.' Both analogies are frequently employed and implicitly assumed and many points, and it's not immediately apparent how these ideas are to work together.

A recent sermon on the need to serve others reminded me again of this idea. It was brought home during a moment of prayer when I Corinthians 13:3 jumped out to me as clear as day: "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." I want to think more about why we love, where love comes from, and what our reasons and obligations are as it regards this love. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, discusses whether or not earthly love is actually love only insofar as it participates in the divine Love (an admittedly Platonic idea, but one that bears considering) or if love is somehow independent in each of us, and therefore succeptible to perversion and decay while still properly remaining love.

Is love ultimately something we possess or something we merely channel? Can we (really) love others as God loves us, or rather because God loves us? Can we love someone with implicit or even explicitly selfish motives (..."but have not love, I gain nothing)?

to be continued...

Grace & Peace