Gospel: Mt 10.24-39 says disciples [learners] are to be like their Teacher. We are to lose our life in following Him, and then we will find our life.
We have devoted the Reflections since Pentecost to Virtue and Character in Christian terms as defined by N.T. Wright in After You Believe. We are not suggesting that we are to seek virtue and character as a means of “earning our way to heaven.” Christianity makes it very clear that we are declared to be righteous by our faith in what Christ has done for us rather then what we do. But for faith to be genuine it must issue in good works (Jas 2. 17,18). Our life must change if our faith is real. Our faith enables us to understand what Christ accomplished for us, and this makes us want to please Him in return by following Him as an example and obeying His commands. To put it theologically, we are justified (declared ‘righteous’) by faith, but justification initiates the process of sanctification which issues in good works. The good works do not save us; our faith in Christ is what saves us. Or to look a bit deeper, it is not our faith that saves us; it is what our faith is in: viz., Christ, who saves us. So to return to our main topic of how we are to behave after we believe…We are to seek to be transformed in terms of our character so that we learn to behave in a way that pleases Jesus, even when we encounter crises. Especially when we encounter crises. It is in crises that our character, our virtuous habits (or their lack), are revealed. But what Jesus wants us to do is not merely to look at issues as problems to be resolved, but to look at our behavior in terms of our whole life seen in the light of the Creator’s purpose for human beings in general. This means that instead of focusing on ethical principles, we see them in terns of a vocation (a call) on one’s whole life. This means that we don’t put ourselves at the center of the picture (as Aristotle’s ethics did) but put God at the center and we revolve around Him. God calls us to a vocation to bring about His kingdom on earth by giving ourselves away in generous love and by refusing to take center stage. The glory of Christian virtue is that the self is not in the center of the picture–God and His purposes are. As Jesus said, we are to seek first God’s kingdom and His justice and then everything else will fall into place (Mt 6.33). This shifts the vision of Christian behavior from good works in the sense of moral living, keeping rules, etc. to the idea that Christian behavior is about good works in the sense of doing things which bring God’s wisdom and glory to birth in the world. The latter includes, of course, ”good moral living” but is about so much more–such as a passion to make the world a better place for everyone and an eagerness to create and celebrate beauty in its many forms. Our purpose then is to seek God’s will in bringing about His kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6.10). This is achieved by consciously and deliberately striving to become holy, and praying for His help and for His will to be done, and then being committed to suffering love for others and for Him. The challenge to live in this way grows out of the understanding that Jesus’ vocation (His call) for us is not ultimately a disembodied heaven but a renewed earth based on the new heaven and earth descending out of heaven described in Rev 21 where followers of Jesus will receive resurrection bodies as He did in order to dwell with Him in a magnificently restored earth forever.
Memory Verse: And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Mt 10.38,39).