My gulf between theory and practice
One of my spiritual springs of life here in Kijabe is listening to Rob Bell’s sermons online from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids…he’s been preaching 1 John for a few months now, and it’s been a brilliant series.
I’ve been deeply moved this week as I’ve read and mediated on 1 John 2:3-6:
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
In John’s view, there’s an inseparable link between what we say or think, and what we do–the two must not be separated. In other words, I shouldn’t draw a distinction between what I believe and what I do…if I think something is ‘true’, but do not do it, then it is, in fact, not ‘true’ to me.
Or, in theological terms, John’s view (and the ancient Hebrew worldview) is that orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice) shouldn’t be separated. There’s no value in it. And, in fact, if we spend all our time “believing” the right things without an equal amount of doing the right things, John calls us liars.
Jesus tells us that we should not be angry with others (Matt 5:22) and that we should love those who are difficult to love (Matt 5:44)…I find it easy to give verbal and mental assent that this is right and true. I have sometimes prided myself on the fact that I think I ‘get’ Jesus’ very difficult commands in the Discourse on the Hillside (Matthew 5).
But what has smote my heart this week is the gulf between what I believe is right and good, and what I do; my natural responses when the chips are down. This has been a very difficult year for many reasons, and in a lot of ways I am grateful for it–because it has been in my natural responses to the year’s events (changing cultures, my parent’s divorce, changing vocations) that the Lord has exposed to the light of day some deeply ingrained habits, emotions, and character traits he is working to transform.
It’s painful. And deeply, deeply convicting to read John’s words.
I say I believe Jesus, and that I trust Him. But do I walk as Jesus did? Do I really think that Jesus was the smartest, wisest, most capable person to walk the face of the earth? Do I therefore order my entire life around trying to live my life as Jesus would if He were me?
Or am I content to live in my 21st century, Western mindset where theory can quite comfortably be divorced from practice?