Wednesday, February 20, 2013


“When he [Jesus] shall appear, we shall be like him;” (1 John 3:2).

There is a term sculptors use to describe the ability to look at a rough piece of stone and see it in its final, perfected form. It is called “hyperseeing.”

Gutzon Borglum’s housekeeper captured the concept in her own quaint way when Borglum took her to Mt. Rushmore for the first time and she gazed up at the massive faces of the four presidents he had sculpted there: “Mr. Borglum,” she gasped, “How did you know Mr. Lincoln was in that rock?”

That quality—hyperseeing—is found first in God. He sees all that we are and more: He sees what we shall be when he has completed his work and we stand before him, holy and without blemish: the “splitting image” of Jesus.[i] The God who started this great work in you “will keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Jesus Christ appears!” [ii]

God will not be denied! He has such a longing for our perfection that nothing can or will remain an obstacle until he has finished the work he began long ago...

If only we will put ourselves in his hands.

Doubt whispers, ‘Thou art such a blot;
He cannot love poor thee.’
If what I am He lovest not,
He loves what I shall be.
—George MacDonald


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Golden Rule

Therefore whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” —Matthew 7:7-12.

Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher Hans Küng coined the phrase “Global Ethic” to refer to moral principles held in common by all religions. The essence of these principles, he concludes, is the Law of Reciprocity: “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” otherwise known as the Golden Rule. Put another way, it is the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

C. S. Lewis adds, “The first thing to get clear about Christian morality between man and man is that in this department Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality. The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as you would be done by) is a summing up of what every one, at bottom, had always known to be right” (Mere Christianity).

What then makes Jesus’ version of the saying exceptional?

It’s uniqueness lies in a conjunction, “Therefore,” that suggests a conclusion based on a premise. The premise, in this case, is the generosity of our heavenly Father:Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Therefore whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:7-12).

Here is the motive for the Golden Rule: We have a loving, giving father who set aside his own self-interest to reveal the full measure of his love. We love and give because he first loved us. N.T. Wright has put it this way: “Jesus was neither the first nor the last great moral teacher to offer this so-called ‘Golden Rule’, and it sums up a good deal of his teaching. What distinguishes him from the many others who have said similar things is that underneath the moral lesson is the love of the heavenly father. What should distinguish his followers, but alas frequently doesn’t, is that, knowing this love, they should find themselves able to obey this rule, and the other rules that follow from it, gladly and freely. They should then discover that they are able to reflect God’s love and light into the world” (The New Testament for Everyone).

Secondly, God’s generosity is the dynamic by which we keep the Golden Rule. He gives not merely guidance, as all moral teachers do, but the resources for compliance as well. He provides more than understanding; he supplies the ability to act upon that understanding. He asks for performance but gives his power and love to carry it out.

God does not promise to give us every thing we ask for (an S-Class Mercedes-Benz comes to mind), but he does promise that he will answer every plea for goodness. It will take time to bring our requests to fruition for we’re all very hard cases, but he has promised and he cannot lie.

So what do you need this day to love your neighbor as yourself? Do you lack patience? Mercy? Forgiveness? Hope? Call on your Father and ask for it by name. Keep asking and it will be given to you. Keep seeking and it will be found. Keep knocking and it will be opened to you—in time.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It’s About Time

"High notions of oneself are annihilated by a glance in the mirror."

—Nobel Poet, Czeslaw Milosz

A Botox cosmetic ad appears on our television screen that features a stunningly beautiful young model who smiles at the camera and murmurs, “It’s about time.” Exactly!

Time is the enemy. We invest in vitamin supplements, serums, tightening concentrates, firming creams, cellulite removers—a plethora of pills and potions—in an effort to stave off the effects of free-radical damage and try to stay alive, or at least look alive, as long as possible. We battle every age spot, blemish, and bulge, but nothing works very well, or for very long. The hours “fill our brow with lines and wrinkles,” Shakespeare lamented. The Greek god Chronis devoured his children, it was said, a sad reminder that time destroys all things. Time eventually catches up with us. We look our age and it’s not a pretty sight to see.

Jeremy Taylor, writing in the seventeenth century, put his finger on the issue. “First, age takes those parts that serve for ornamentation.” Thus, “every day calls for a reparation of that portion which death fed on all night.” Each morning we have to repair the damage that was done the night before. As an old friend of mine says: “A little powder, a little paint, makes a girl what she ain’t.”

And don’t think for a minute that men are immune to this compulsion. We too are appalled by what we see in the mirror, and each morning must give ourselves to restoration. But no matter what we do, the trend is down. It’s about time.

We, however, are not about time. We have been called to eternal glory! (1 Peter 5:10). Because Jesus died and rose again, our bodies will be rescued from the tyranny of decay, and—if we believe him—we shall share in the glory that belongs to us as the children of God and will be revealed in everlasting splendor. If we could but see ourselves today as we shall be then, we would be left speechless in awe and wonder. (I must add, however, that we’ll not be self-conscious then, but consumed with admiration for the beauty we see in others.)

In the meantime, though the outward person is perishing, we can invest in inward loveliness. The more we center on inner beauty, the less preoccupied we’ll be with an external glory that is fading away.

Here’s the thing: What I hold in my mind will, in time, show up in my face, for as George MacDonald once pointed out, the face is “the surface of the mind.” If I cling to bitterness and resentment, if I tenaciously hold a grudge, if I fail to forgive, my countenance will begin to reflect those moods. My mother used to tell me that an angry look might someday freeze on my face. She was wiser than she knew.

But in the same way, a generous and charitable heart, one filled with grace and forgiveness, will find its way to the surface—for goodness cannot be hidden—and show itself in kind eyes and a face that is gentle and wise.

So my task is not to try to fix my face and make it good (that would be hypocrisy), but to set about killing the ugly things that come out of my heart—“so ugly that they make the very face over them ugly also” (MacDonald). Yet I know my heart—how hard it is, how disinclined to change. No one but God can drive its sullen self-centeredness away. So I must ask Him by His power to fulfill every desire for goodness. Then, someday, my face may reflect the holiness He has put into my heart.

I have a friend, a Catholic priest, who served as Mother Teresa’s translator when she was in the United States to address the United Nations. I was in his study one day and spied a picture of the two of them standing together on the streets of New York. I marveled again at her ancient, wrinkled, leathered, lined face, utterly unadorned. Wisdom and character had drawn their lines. Gazing at those marks of courage and kindness, I thought: Is there anyone more homely—or more beautiful?

Hers was the beauty of holiness. May it be ours as well.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Authorial Intent

Augustine, in his Confessions supplies a list of interpretations of Genesis 1 that were “bandied about” in his day. He concludes that any of them will do as long as it is true to the truth: “What harm is there if a reader holds an opinion which you (God), the light of all truthful minds, show to be true, even though it is not what was intended by the author, who himself meant something true, but not exactly that” (XII.18.27).

Augustine’s hermeneutic seems odd to those of us who were taught E. D. Hirsch’s theory that a text has only one meaning: the meaning its author intended. Augustine accepts the idea of authorial intent, but goes beyond critical theory to state that “the author’s (ultimate) intent must be sought in charity.”

He writes, "Having listened to all these divergent opinions (interpretations of Genesis 1) and weighed them, I do not wish to bandy words, for that serves no purpose except to ruin those who listen (2 Timothy 2:14). The law is an excellent thing for building us up provided we use it lawfully, because its object is to promote the charity which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and unfeigned faith (1 Timothy 1:4,5–8), and I know what were the twin precepts on which our Master made the whole law and the prophets depend (Matthew 22:40)."

In other words, when I expound a text I need to ask myself, “To what extent does the meaning I assign to this text promote love for God and my neighbor?” This, according to Augustine, is the only “lawful” use of scripture. Paul would agree: “the goal of the commandment is love…” (1 Timothy 1:5).


Friday, February 1, 2013

Lantern Out of Doors
 G. M. Hopkins

Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?
Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.
Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ's interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd. 

Hopkins sits by his window at night and sees a traveler making his way along a path with a lantern to guide his steps as he "wades" through the darkness.

"Who goes there?" he asks, and wonders, "Where has he come from, and where is he bound?"

The sight reminds him of those that have passed by and whose rare physical, mental or spiritual beauty has, like a lantern, rained rich beams of light into his dark, murky world. They have passed out of sight through death or distance and have been forgotten. He wonders what happened to them "at the end," but admits that he has lost interest in them. Out of sight is out of mind.

Out of his mind? Indeed, but never out of Christ's mind. He pursues them to avow the good he has brought into being and to amend the evil that remains in them. His eyes are on them (He "eyes" them), his heart "wants" them, his care haunts them, his "foot follows kind."[1] He is a friend like no other.

We get old, obsolete, and out of circulation. Others forget us, but there is one who never forgets, who perseveres as our ransom, our rescue, our “first, fast, and last friend.”

Our Lord is not one to give up on his friends. He makes them in this life and takes them with him into the age to come. He makes friends the only way there is to make them—forever.

I'm reminded of old Enoch, who “walked with God three hundred years.”  One day, his first, fast, last friend said to him, "It's too far to go back; come on home with me." And God took him in (Genesis 5:22-24).


[1] A reference to the incarnation: "He is one of our kind."

Putting Us Right “An’ noo, for a’ oor wrang-duins (wrong-doings) an’ ill-min’ins (misjudgments), for a’ oor sins and tre...