Monday, September 4, 2017

A truly ‘Christed’ person’s private and public self should not be in much conflict.

Is the Christian life only marked by activity and how ‘productive’ our lives as Christians have been?  The world does seem to hold productivity in high esteem and it gives a lot of credit and emphasis to being productive, as it rewards and recognizes it handsomely with remunerations and accolades.  We have, as a result, become rather addicted to the idea of accumulation, be it accumulating wealth, property, fame, or even ‘likes’ on the social media.  While there is nothing wrong with these in themselves, they somehow prevent us from seeing the positive side in passivity. 

But is there a case for passivity in life?  Is it to be dismissed so easily?  What about parts of our lives where we are not so actively conscious about our ‘doing’?  Will they be counted as anything if we are sometimes just passive and not completely conscious about the things that we do, carrying out our tasks in some sort of knee-jerk, mechanical or even unthinking way?  In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus in speaking about the end times and the final judgment gives us a rather unsettling indication that we will be judged in both our conscious acts of love and charity, as well as the acts of love and charity that were done in a sub-conscious or passive way.  In other words, each moment of our lives are the lens through which God sees our hearts.

Is this unsettling?  For many of us, I believe it is.  Most of us ‘behave’ our best when we are very conscious that we are being watched, or when the spotlight is directly over our heads.  It has very close connection with our very fragile and sensitive egos, as we want to be seen as ‘proper’, ‘dignified’ and ‘moral’ by all and sundry.  But what Jesus alludes to is that we will be judged just as fairly in our sub-conscious and unthinking actions in our closed, private moments in the same way that we are judged in our public and open moments.  In God, there are no ‘closed door’ actions or ‘private moments’ that do not impact or affect the larger body of Christ.  It is not that God is a divine control freak, or some Orwellian “big brother”. 

Rather, what many of us miss when we read this passage of Matthew’s gospel is the imperative of having our entire hearts being turned over to Christ in our efforts of living out our Christian discipleship.  The underlying message or teaching is that the true Christian disciple is one whose entire life is given over to Christ and whose identity becomes truly Christed.  This Christ-like character needs to influence every fiber of our being, such that even in our sub-conscious and unthinking level of existence, there is a call to live out the virtues of our divine filiation.  It permeates our very selves, leaving no part un-Christed. 

This, I believe, is the main struggle with most of our lives.  That we live somewhat compartmentalized lives, and there is a public Christian self that is so safe for all to see or Instagram, and there is the other part – that self that we hide and only a very select group see – it’s what we are ashamed of, what we are embarrassed to make public about, what we aren’t particularly proud of. 

To live in a way that we are not one bit afraid of judgment is to live in a way that there really is nothing to hide.  This is to die a truly happy death.  One spiritual writer once wrote that there is no private morality.  There is only morality.  And he challenged himself by reminding himself daily whether he is living in such a way that if there was a check done on his computer surfing history, his phone messages and chat groups, his locked drawers, will he stand up to scrutiny on all the histories that can be retrieved and searched on it?  In other words, he was alluding to the fact that he was going to be judged not just by his public side, but by his most private side as well. 

This won’t be much of a problem if we are truly and fully identified in Christ.  That’s what a baptism essentially is – a soaking.  When one is soaked in something, nothing is dry.  Hurricane Harvey which drenched the larger part of Houston, Texas last week left so many homes inundated with water.  In many of those homes, nothing was left dry.  Everything was soaked.  Admittedly, using a hurricane as a metaphor for a baptismal soaking has its limits and can raise eyebrows.  Here is where they are distinctively different. 

While a hurricane is a bringer of devastation, baptism is bringer of life.  Being baptized in Christ gives us a whole new identity and hence, a whole new way of living.  The character of Christ permeates our thinking, our attitudes and our behaviour.  Not in a robotic and controlling way, but where we want to cooperate in full freedom because it is good and necessary, showing that we want our baptisms to truly be a sign that we have a new and eternal identity.

Living any other way will mean that we are living compartmentalized lives, and because of this, we will definitely end up being conflicted or even somewhat duplicitous. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Fr. Luke,
    There is a macro and micro end times. As children of God, we are all called to have a mission in life on earth. Our biological and spiritual clocks are set in the moment we are born. Our 1st cry (John 1:23), is to be witness and clear the path for our Beloved Brother, Jesus.
    Most of the time, we have forgotten our mission until our biological clocks start to function slowly or abnormally. Our spiritual clocks start to click in to backup our spirits and souls. Our senses are all opened up and started to aware our 1st calling.
    Our souls are like a pearl. Day and night are being polished by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 13: 44-46) until the Christ light's radiate in our souls and reflect His divine light. We are moved to carry the Holy order and work. We will no longer find it as a Cross but a joy and privilege to be loved by Him deeply. Our souls and spirits are union in Him and with Him.
    However, majority of the children of God are still captive by the darkness of this world and unable to free themselves. Sadly, the macro end times are being drawn by our action.
    Churches are to be prayed and to lead prayer to protect our souls and other souls too. As children of God, we are asked to be warriors. Like it or not, we will face it when our micro end times at our doors.