4.18.2007

What Kind of Person am I?

I’m reading a book right now called The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California and a Christian.

I gotta tell you, this book has been pushing me and challenging me theologically more than the past ten books I’ve read combined! And I’ll tell you why.

The Divine Conspiracy focuses largely on The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and 6. Most of the time, when we read these teachings of Jesus—teachings like: do not be angry, do not lust, do not swear an oath, love your enemies, etc., etc., etc.—when we read these, we assume that Jesus is giving us laws to obey. But Willard argues that these are not laws; these are illustrations of how a certain kind of person lives.

And what kind of person is this? A person whose life is completely submitted to God. A person who lives and breathes the life of God. A person whose feet are covered with the dust kicked up by Jesus’ feet because they are following so closely.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not be angry with your brother or sister” (and, by the way, Jesus doesn’t exactly say this, but this is how we often understand Matthew 5:21-22). The kind of person that Jesus is talking about does not get angry or bitter because their life is filled with the love of God.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not lust” (again, not exactly how Jesus put it). This kind of person will not objectify anyone sexually because they understand a person’s value the way God understands a person’s value.

This kind of person will not merely obey a law that says “do not swear.” This kind of person will be a person of integrity and honesty; a person who does not need to swear or promise or make an oath because this person always means what he or she says—and follows through.

I hope this makes sense. I’m still learning to grasp this way of reading Jesus’ words. And I’m struggling with this question: “Am I that kind of person? Or am I just trying to obey what I think are the rules?”

Let me end with these two paragraphs from The Divine Conspiracy:

Is it then hard to do the things with which Jesus illustrates the kingdom heart of love? Or the things Paul says love does? It is very hard indeed if you have not been substantially transformed in the depths of your being, in the intricacies of your thoughts, feelings, assurances, and dispositions, in such a way that you are permeated with love. Once that happens, then it is not hard. What would be hard would be to act the way you acted before.

When Jesus hung on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing,” that was not hard for him. What would have been hard for him would have been to curse his enemies and spew forth vileness and evil upon everyone, God and the world…. He calls us to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.

3 comments:

DGH said...

What a great book to start to help people think Kingdom minded...and not "church" minded. Great read man!

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