What happened to the disciplines, pt. 3

Last month we closed out by saying, Jesus best exemplafied THE human life, a life that flows out of the heart of God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and justice.  We referenced, Philippians 2:5-8 as a way to show what this life looked like.  We saw, through this text, that God’s idea of a humanity that images him to the world around us, through the life of Jesus, was a humanity lived out in:

Allow me to dive into each of these functions personified in the work and person of Jesus, if for nothing else, for the sake of definition, and then we will return to the original purpose of this blog series:

  • Service by means of emptying – The idea of emptying found in Philippians 2:5-8 is not so much the idea of “emptying of” only, but rather the idea of being “emptied of in order to be emptied into” – or emptying of and out of and from one set of properties into another.  It’s the same idea found in 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, where Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his richness and into poverty for the good of the other.  Hebrews 2:17 takes this so far as to insinuate that the mercy and empathy of God was brought to its depth and fullness because of Christ’s emptying into the other.  Then in Matthew 20:28, the evangelists will go as far as saying that this is not just one of the reasons Jesus came, but the reason.  We all want to be full of gratitude for the very fact that Jesus did this for us, but if we jump back up to our Philippians text, we see that the proof of our gratitude is shown as we “have this mind among” us… meaning, our gratitude for Christ’s service by means of emptying, should be shown in lives of service by means of emptying.   Here’s the deal, this sort of life seems daunting if not impossible, which is why I believe we can’t jump from being selfish demons to self-emptying saints in a moments notice, but rather we need practices in our lives that help shape us into this sort of person.
  • Incarnation, guided and informed by grace and truth…- Christ’s ontology among us was balanced, it did not weigh more to one side or the other, in fact it was informed and guided by two elements which seem to be in opposition to each other in our world. In the life of Christ, they not only complimented each other, they were weaved together so tightly that one could not exist without the other in his being and thus in his function as a human.  Three words that drive the depth of this home:
    • Full – which means to be permeated with, covered in every part, as if there was no room for anything else.  I think of my ruck sack that I recently packed for Haiti. I packed it so tight with clothes and books, there was no room for other substances within the bag, it was bursting at the seems with these two items there was no room for anything else – the person of Jesus, the servant Jesus (to use our Philippians text) was packed full of grace and truth – there was no room for selfish ambition, bigotry, lust, or any other disposition – and it was this grace and truth that caused him to weep over Jerusalem in compassion, caused him to drive out the money changers in the temple fueled by justice, drove him into times of solitude with his Father, and made him obedient to the point of death…he was full of it, and his person had no room for anything else that would shape his humanity into any sort of distortion of being the true human.
    • Truth – often times in our minds truth is a set of propositional facts, something that is one-dimensional, and can be memorized and regurgitated by almost anyone without much cost to us.  But Jesus’ truth cost him, it cost him his life, a truth that shaped his personhood, a truth that was the product, not of memorized facts, but a relationship with his Father, a dialogical truth, shaped in the fire of a love relationship between him, the Father, and the Spirit – truth as person, truth with texture, truth with depth, truth at a cost.  This is why Jesus will later tell us that truth is not a system of facts we must memorize, but truth is a person that we must engage, and this engagement will ultimately shape the truth we know, because of the truth that knows us at a soul level.
    • Grace – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, good-will, loving-kindness, favour – I’m not going to expound on this one, but at the end of the day, I don’t know about you, but I can tell you my existence toward others cannot be defined by this idea of grace – but it should be.  Again, this sort of life “packed-full” of grace and truth is not something we can just “do” we must be formed into it, we need disciplines that help us identify the other junk in our suit case that is taking up space that should only be reserved for grace and truth.
  • Obedience shaped by submission and suffering – suffering – it seems almost selfish that I have any sort of right to this word.  I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve seen suffering, I’ve touched it, smelled, and wept over it, but suffering like that I have never experienced.  Again, not to belittle the word, but being that I am a melancholy introvert I have wrestled with a suffering soul and mind, I have had a few times, not many, where true heart ache was my reality.  But I can not claim ownership of the word suffering like many of my friends across the world can – those who have suffered far reaching loss, war, extreme poverty, and oppression.  I have not had to suffer, as some of my other friends have, sexual, physical, or mental abuse.  I’ve not suffered the loss of a parent, spouse, child, or sibling – so I am, in no way, assuming I have the corner on understanding suffering.  All that said, scripture talks about suffering at many levels – it talks about a kind of suffering that Jesus experienced, due to his willingness to embrace the suffering of others through relationship and community which lead to an empathy that very few of us know.  Scripture talks about a kind of suffering that is the result of denying and killing your sinful will, sinful dispositions, and sinful desires that we feel are part of our very personhood – to rip these out of our hearts through obedience causes the soul to suffer, but like a phoenix, our person rises anew in a new way.  Jesus experienced both of these sufferings that resulted in his obedience, and Paul calls us to willfully enter this sort of suffering, which is very opposed to our western ways of overmedicating ourselves with entertainment, consumerism, and the like, in order to avoid suffering that is due to embracing the suffering of others (true empathy) and the denial of the will.  Again, this is why we need practices and disciplines, because I simply love my own will too much, and find comfort in ignoring or being ignorant of the plight of the other.

 Now back to the original summed up question that launched this blog series, “what sort of practices shape a Godward humanity?”  If we don’t have practices that form us, not unlike a lump of clay being formed into a beautiful vessel, we end up trying to force this sort of humanity on ourselves and end up at best in a state of burnout, rather than these being the natural outflowing of one who is fully and deeply enjoying Jesus.   So, what are these disciplines or practices?  I think they can be narrowed down to the following four categories:

  • Contemplative Practices (slow and focused)…
  • Communal Practice..
  • Environmental Practices…
  • Servant Practices…​

 but this for another blog…until next month

​for those following this blog… I am moving it!  Click HERE to go to the new blog site:

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