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Posts Tagged ‘E. Stanley Jones’

The core of our life is what determines how we live.  If we do not know what the core of our life is then we live life with a certain amount of ambiguity.  If our life is built upon a foundation of “survival of the fittest” we live for the self.  Others become assets or liabilities depending on how they operate in our circle.  If our life is built upon Jesus Christ, then our core is based upon dying to self in order to live.

Many Christians, myself included, have fallen into a bit of self-denial when it comes to living as Christ.  Sometimes we think we are dying to self but in actuality we have taken the vocabulary of Christ and used it to serve our core of survival of the fittest.  We use our faith as a weapon or a defense against others instead for life.  In other words, we turn to religion for the sake of identity and not relationship for the sake of living.  There is a story about 2 monks who are walking through the woods on their way to town.  Along the way they encounter a stream that is waist deep and the ferry to help them cross is stuck on the other side.  They find there a woman who cannot cross for she is not a good swimmer and is afraid to cross without the boat.  The monks are forbidden to touch the woman in any way, but they are also called to help those in need.  One monk is firmly against the idea of touching the woman and says that they cannot help her, but if she is patient, someone will surely cross in the ferry soon.  The other monk, quietly picks the woman up and carries her across, all the while his friend is not so quietly seething at this break of the rules.  Once they reach the other side, the monk lets the woman down and they go on their separate ways.  An hour later, the “Rule Abiding” monk, finally speaks and says, “I cannot believe you did what was forbidden and carried the woman across the stream.” The other monk replied,  “I put her down by the stream, but you have been carrying her for over an hour”.   One monk carried the practice of religion for the service of self-worth.  His identity was not found in having Christ at his center, but at being a good disciple.  The other monk, practiced relationship with Christ, at his center was not the value of being a good rule follower, but of surrendering oneself to Christ.

How do we find ourselves in this center of Christ.  I believe that this center is found in the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is a powerful statement so often misunderstood.  I have been reading E. Stanley Jones’ spiritual autobiography, “A Song of Ascents” for sometime now.  He reflected on this issue and I wanted to share what he said with you.

E. Stanley Jones was having a discussion with Mahatma Gandhi and he asked him this question: “When you fast unto death to make the Hindus do away with untouchability, isn’t this a species of  coercion?” His answer was swift: “Yes, the same kind of coercion which Jesus exercises upon you from the cross.”  There he was right.  It was not the same but similar.

“The power of his method was further seen when he applied this method of inflicting suffering on himself in a moral situation locally. He had preached purity to India and had lived it, but impurity came into his own Ashram: two young men were guilty of sex immorality. Out of sheer sorrow of spirit Gandhi began to fast – fasted six full days.  At the end of that time those two young men stood before him with tears rolling down their cheeks, imploring him to stop his fast, to forgive them and restore the fellowship.  Could the Mahatma forgive them now? Yes, you say, he could have forgiven them as the head of the institution without the fast.  Yes, but it would have been a cheap forgiveness based upon the authority of his being head of the institution, with no moral content in it.  But now, after entering into their sins and taking the sins on himself and suffering with and for them, he could forgive them with a deep moral content in the forgiveness.  This was very, very close to the cross – closer to the cross than many modern interpreters of Christianity, who try to make the cross acceptable to the modern man by cancelling its atoning side and making Jesus a martyr for a cause, saying that God because of his goodness and his love will forgive without atonement.  Yes, he could forgive without atonement, but it would be a cheap forgiveness based upon his authority as the ruler of the universe, and his goodness and love.  That forgiveness would have little or no moral content in it. Now when God offers me forgiveness in a nail-pierced hand, I know it costs God something – and deeply – to offer that forgiveness.  It is not cheap; it is costly to God and to us.  I say “to us,” for Paul puts the meaning of the cross thus: “His purpose in dying for all was that men, while still in life, should cease to live for themselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NEB). The purpose in dying was that “men… should cease to live for themselves.”  It was to break the tyranny of the sin of self-centeredness, of making themselves God.  But if God did not give himself at a cross (“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself”) then how can he ask men to give themselves no longer to live for themselves? His advice would be verbal, not vital. If God can forgive without atonement… then God might forgive without atonement; but without the divine self-giving on the cross, the divine purpose of the cross, namely, that “men… should cease to live for themselves,” would be unfulfilled.  If God didn’t give himself, neither will man give himself.  This forgiveness based upon the goodness and love of God, but without the atoning sacrifice of himself, is a forgiveness that is shallow, without moral content, and will not and does not produce human self-giving.  But when I see God in Christ giving himself on a cross, I loathe myself as a self-centered man trying to organize my universe around me as God; and I not only loathe myself: I surrender myself as God, and I do what God does. I give myself. No self-giving in God, no self-giving in me.

“This verse is decisive: “The lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd” (Rev. 7: 17 NEB). What is at the heart of the throne of the universe?  What is the nature of the ultimate power? The answers have been various and different:… ( peace, detachment, desirelessness, almightiness, dependable scientific law, peace of mind, goodness and love {paraphrase by blog author}). But in Christianity; “The Lamb is at the heart of the Throne” – self-giving, redeeming, sacrificial love is the center of power in the universe.  That is the most startling thing ever announced about our universe.  And the most important.  If sacrificial love is at the heart of the throne, then sacrificial love must be at the heart of my motives, my very life, at the center of me.  If it isn’t, then I’m at cross purposes with the throne – the final power –  therefore bound to get hurt, to come out badly.  But suppose I see this and respond by my own self-giving to the divine self-giving; then the universe is behind me, the sum total of reality approves of me.  I’m afraid of nothing.  What can death do to me?  I’ve already died.  You cannot defeat defeat.  You cannot break brokeness.  I’ve come back from my own funeral.  I’m alive in the Alive.”

Jones, E. Stanley. 1968. A Song of Ascent. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press. pgs. 138-140.

Are you alive in THE ALIVE?

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