The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Traditions
The prophetic task of the church is to proclaim God’s peace and his love into the actual situation of our broken and tormented world. And one of the most basic elements in our world, which we can see displayed in the psychology of many of our contemporaries, is that people are uncertain of themselves, uncertain that they are acceptable and lovable. This is why self-justification is such a typical activity of fallen man, and why the doctrine that we cannot justify ourselves is so essential to Christian belief.
As soon as we lose our nerve about ourselves, we begin to hide. Adam and Eve hid, and we have all, in one way or another, followed their example. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we come to forget even that we are hiding.
The gospel is proclaimed to what we really are, whether we like it or not. God’s call to us now is, as it was to Adam, to come out of hiding. There can be no question of our attracting his favor by any amount of spiritual make-up. His love is the ultimate source of our very existence; there is no antecedent beauty on our part.
If people are not prepared to come to terms with the truth of what they are either the truth of their total dependence on God or the truth of their actual sinful and painful conditions, they are likely to be offended by a message which will have no welcome in their defensiveness. And they are likely to react with hostility.
But even when, out of honesty or just sheer pain, people are prepared to come out of hiding, the way is likely to be long and difficult. We may well wish to respond to the invitation of God’s love, which claims to be able to cope with the whole truth of what we are; but will we actually be able to trust it? To be continued Tuesday, May 27, 2008 ...
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