1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[a]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Faith is the catch 22! It’s not our faith in God that strengthens us – it’s our awareness of God’s faith in Himself and His own creation AND His own faithfulness to what He’s already done. God created this world. He has never relinquished control of His operational plan for it, nor abdicated His responsibility to the people who inhabit it. God’s own faith in what He has already done IS His will for us. His “will” for broken people in a broken world is that His faith, not ours, will enable us to learn to live “completely in this world” recognizing Him “unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures.a”
a “I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
gene ther·a·py – noun – 1 the transplantation of normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders.
From Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“…The Pharisee is that extremely admirable man who subordinates his entire life to his knowledge of good and evil and is as severe a judge of himself as of his neighbour to the honour of God, whom he humbly thanks for this knowledge. For the Pharisee every moment of life becomes a situation of conflict in which he has to choose between good and evil…”
Bonhoeffer describes the personal life of a Pharisees pretty clearly in that first paragraph. That phrase “knowledge of good and evil” made me think of the Garden of Eden. There was only one tree Adam and Eve were NOT to eat from. It was the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We’ve all got a little a little bit of that same Pharisee DNA in us and that’s a tough sentence to live with.
But God has a plan to get us out of that genetic trap. It’s the very first, and most effective form of Gene Therapy to replace those defective cells. Some call it born again. I call it Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Excerpts from a 1928 Sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
…Watch out for your soul. What should we say about this soul? It is the life God gave us; it is what God loves in us, what God has touched from eternity. It is the love within us and the longing and the sacred restlessness and the responsibility and joy and pain. It is the divine breath breathed into a transitory being. Human being, you have a soul
…But, ah, look what has become of it down through the years! A restless, distracted, tormented, despondent thing, shaken to and fro by daily events, a thing that knows not whether it’s coming or going. And now it encounters the statement: my soul is silent before God
…And yet our entire being thirsts for solitude, for silence, since ultimately we have all, at one time or another, experienced such silence and have not forgotten the benefits of such hours. Today, however, we are not talking about being silent while reading a book or listening to a song or something like that, but about being silent before God
…Such silence requires the daily courage to expose oneself to God’s word and allow oneself to be judged by it; it requires the spontaneity to rejoice in God’s love every day. But this already brings us to the question: What are we supposed to do to penetrate through to this silence
…None of us is so rushed that we cannot find ten minutes a day during the morning or evening to be silent, to focus on eternity alone, allow eternity to speak, to query it concerning ourselves, and in the process look deeply into ourselves and far beyond ourselves, either by reading a couple of biblical passages or, even better, by becoming completely free and allowing our soul to travel to the house of the Father, to the home in which it finds peace…
I Timothy 4:14-16
14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON
“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
Bonhoeffer’s description of worldliness is not the dismal, possibly even evil, description that would have come to my mind. The world is God’s creation. He has not given up on it. We are His people in the world. How did it happen that “living completely in this world” became a bad thing? Maybe it’s time to rethink just what Jesus’ prayer on our behalf in John 17:15 really means. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Isn’t that our clue that we should have the courage to embrace our world absolutely?
Life is all about continuing to discover how to live our life in Christ in the midst of life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. It’s the effort that diligence requires that makes our words begin to take on meaning that actually changes us. That change becomes visible evidence to those around us that something special is happening.
Maybe Bonhoeffer got it right that the world is the place God created where “one learns to have faith.” Paul urges us to “give yourself wholly” and persevere in that effort to get it right. Jesus’ prayer should give us the assurance to throw ourselves unreservedly into HIS kind of faith-building worldliness. May it be so Lord.