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“There are many who follow our Lord halfway, but not the other half,” said Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and mystic who lived in the 13th century.
We obey, but only up till a point.
I will say, by experience, that living the Christian faith halfway can be miserable. But oh, the joy of unreserved obedience!
When such a commitment comes in a human life, God breaks through, miracles are wrought, society-renewing divine forces are released and history changes.
We obey, but only up till a point.
There is a degree of holy and complete obedience of joyful renunciation and sensitive listening that is breath-taking. It is not just a difference in degree but kind, when one follows Him with the second half.
Jesus said it poignantly, “You must be born again.” (John 3:3) and St Paul repeated it,“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.”
Choose one or the other
These are not half-way images. It is not both this and that; it is either-or.
“Choose you this day, whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15) It is a call to a life of deep peace and joy, filled with the light of God.
Living the Christian faith halfway can be miserable.
Jesus said, “When your eye is single, your body is full of light.” (Luke 11:34) Everyone of us desires to live this kind of life. It starts with a deep work of God, what we may call an experience of God or an encounter with Him. “All Thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” (Psalms 42:7)
His love sweeps us into His loving centre – away from a dark, self-destructive and contorting world – where marks of glory are on all things, and the marks are blood-stained and cruciform. When one beholds, one sighs, as did Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Without vision, the Christian life is a moral drudgery.
When we see God, as Moses knew, death comes. Death to self, the giving up of the other half.
St Paul, when he saw the vision of Christ, was so transformed that he declared: “The life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal 2:20)
We need this flaming vision, without which, the Christian life is a moral drudgery.
Then just keep going
From this first step, we move to the second of obeying now. Begin where you are, in the little things: obey, submit, yield.
Live every moment in His presence, something which the Bible sometimes call “ceaseless prayer”. This internal communion with God and continuous prayer is essential. Whether at home, in school or work, it can be carried out day and night.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.”
Let the Holy Spirit blow through every fibre of your being.
If you do fall, pick yourself up and start again. Don’t wallow in the mud. Let the Spirit convict and submit to His grace. Brokenness is the path to healing. Relax and let God take control.
Don’t grit your teeth in self-determination. Let the Holy Spirit blow through every fibre of your being.
Further note: This piece of sharing is inspired by Thomas Kelly’s “A Testament of Devotion”, a book which I can only digest a few pages at a time. Such is its spiritual immensity. This book, written more than a century ago, needs to be read as we seek to follow Christ in modern urban life. While the piece above may seem to oversimplify the challenge of a devoted life, the book needs to be read in entirety to be fair to the author’s message. And we do need to reflect on how we may apply it in our modern and hedonistic (dominated by self and sex, ego and ecstasy or pride and desire) culture.
This article was first published in the weekly service bulletin for St Andrews Cathedral under the “Vicar Writes” column. More articles can be found on the St Andrews Cathedral website here.