08 October 2009

Some Brisk Words for Busy Christians

There's just no mistaking it sometimes. There are times, I sincerely believe, when God desires a radical, wholesale, thoroughgoing change in the life of a particular human being other than you or me. And sometimes it is equally plain that God intends you to be the means or instrument of that change. And then there are other times when you're equally mistaken - whether as to the nature or degree of the change God intends, or in your notion that you are be its instrument.

We all make mistakes, even when we're absolutely right about something. Indeed, it is precisely then that the false impregnability of our position often leads us into the most grievous mistakes. That is why it is of the utmost importance, whenever you believe you're being called to be the means of massive change in somebody's life, that you see much more than the total wrongness of that individual. Much more important is that you try, and make up your mind, to see as much of the totality of that individual as God's Spirit permits. This is doubly true when your aim is to dislodge some entrenched and very likely deluded set of opinions. I don't care if the person for whom you're praying has just joined the Revolutionary Communist Party - or al Qaeda. There are always going to be more aspects of anyone than even you can possibly see at any one time. And possibly in any one lifetime. All the more reason for you to be open to, and willing to draw upon, any or all of these less visible or prominent aspects. And particularly if you plan to marshall for this glorious Project of Change not just your own best energies, but his or hers. In sum, if you want to do your part in making the whole man (or woman) happy, then you must make your appeal to the whole of him - and especially those parts of him that are most unhappy, and in all likelihood no less oppressed and miserable (under the yoke of his entrenched position) than you or I would be if we had to live with him.

Notice just now how I stressed the "totality of that individual as God's Spirit permits." But I'd like you to read that last proviso more as a window to see through than as a wall to be climbed over. For there is no room or suite of rooms in the entire house to which God's Spirit will not give you entry, provided you're willing to love. It is only as you love that you're able to see, as sympathetically and transparently as any human can - not just what it is to pray for, or preach to, or proselytize, or convert, or even give your life for - but what it is to be that creature, in all its folly and misery, in all its hope and glory. Nor need you worry how tightly a given door is bolted. There is no door into any human creature which Love cannot, eventually, open; no room into whose furthest recesses Love does not have abundant light to see, and see accurately. And, as often as not, even kindly.

Indeed there is no telling how many slumbering or otherwise buried rooms within each of us Love cannot resuscitate. And the more the better, too, for all concerned. After all, if your supreme prayer for another is not only that she may make herself do God's will, but that she may make herself happy in the doing of it, then you're going to need all the allies you can get. Duty is necessary, but unseasoned by joy how quickly it becomes drudgery! How much better, if the one who is your "prayer project" can truly say with the Psalmist, not just "I am obliged . . . ," or even "I am determined . . . ," but also

"I delight to do thy will, O God:
Yea, they law is within my heart."

How much better, if the long-awaited change you see emerging isn't just the one you wanted right along, but one that he or she likes too.

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