Walk Beside Each Other

GREETINGS IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST!

What should we be teaching in order to allow a refocus on faith? I could go on at length about specific content, but an overarching answer must include: (1) It’s not about self; and (2) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (right living) (Prov. 1.7). Let me elaborate, a little. When we focus on self (this is the sin of pride), we are not focused on God and we are not focused on others. God becomes a “condition” of our lives, and worship and service become just priorities that compete with other priorities which we define with reference to our own wants. If I focus on myself first, my first question will always be “What’s in it for me?” Consider, for a moment, what shape we’d all be in if Jesus had looked into the “cup” in Gethsemane and decided that it looked none-too-good for His immediate human interests. We need to teach again, and again, that we are in all of life to echo our Lord’s words to His Father, “...not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14.36).

What about the fear of the Lord? Why should we preach and teach this? Have not all our sins been covered, has not Jesus cancelled the record that stood against us, with the bill marked “PAID” nailed to the cross (see Col. 2.14)? In answering this my response is both practical and theological. At a practical level, while fear can make me focus back on myself, it can do so as a motivator, to remind me of what I need to do in order to have no reason to fear. Fear can remind me of who God is. At a theological level, quite apart from Scripture teaching that such fear is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, the judgment of God is something taught again and again by Jesus. Which leads us to this paradox: (1) God does not know a sin that He does not hate. (2) God does not know a sinner whom he does not love. God is infinitely righteous, and sin is an affront to His righteousness. We are all fallen, and if God were the God of justice alone, we would all be lost. But God is also Lord of mercy, and He cares so much about mercy that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Jesus shall not be lost (John 3.16). So, here’s what fear can do: it can allow me to focus on my life in Christ. It is by Jesus’ sacrifice that I am declared one who can stand before the throne of judgment. I am justified to stand before the Judge because, if I have faith in Jesus, then through this faith He declares me righteous. What fear does, then, is to remind me that if I don’t live in Christ, and struggle each day to do this, then I am lost.

But, let’s get practical again. How do I struggle to live in Christ? That’s where the content of the faith becomes especially important. The content of the faith—what I believe, why I believe it, and how I live it—allows me to keep focused on God’s will. It allows me to focus on what God expects of me and calls me to. It reminds me of the supreme majesty of God, and of the supreme goodness and love that reaches out to me and asks that I reach out in return. It reminds me that God’s will for me is not obscure, but is revealed in His holy Word, in the sacraments, and in two millennia of teaching. It reminds me that truth is not something that we claim to be seeking, but something we know to be found—revealed in Jesus Christ—who calls us to reveal His truth to all.

Finally, let’s note that how we teach is changing, just as how we learn is changing. I can write in a newsletter like this, or teach a class, or post a document or podcast, and some people will pay attention A few may agree and respond. But most teaching only happens through day-to-day life in common. When we walk alongside each other, when we build community, then we can both teach and learn. We’re going to try to increase the ways in which we can walk alongside each other, and the ways in which we can reach others, through our web-based ministries, Grace Abounds. Elsewhere in this newsletter Archdeacon Michele Whitford provides an update on the project, and on what we are seeing in the evolution of digital evangelism. In all that we do a focus will be on building community, that we may walk beside each other daily. Continue in your prayers as we continue together in seeking greater knowledge of God, and of His will for us.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

The Rev. Dr. Karl C. Schaffenburg
Rector

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