Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. – C.S. Lewis
There are at least three things we should catch on to in light of the father’s interaction with the younger son in The Parable of the Father and His Two Sons (Luke 15.11-32):
Grace takes the initiative. The father takes the initiative running out to his son and embracing him. Notice that the father doesn’t wait to hear whatever it is the son has to say, instead he rushes out because he has found his son who was lost. This is radical! What does our culture teach us about reconciliation? Usually, we expect the offender to seek reconciliation and make amends. Jesus turns our expectations on our head and shows us that God–the one who was offended–seeks reconciliation. This is the heart of God–for “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners [while we were still a long way off], Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8). God doesn’t require a transformation before we are reconciled to him, rather it is our reconciliation with God that starts the process of transformation. It is reconciliation with God that brings us from death to life!
Grace is costly. Forgiveness has its price–but it is the one who forgives, not the one being forgiven that must pay the price. The father forgives the son at the cost of his honor and reputation so that they might be reconciled. Likewise, God’s grace toward us is costly. As Tim Keller says, “Salvation is absolutely free for us, but it’s unbelievably costly for him.” At the cost of his honor, reputation, and even his life, God became a crucified-Christ “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,” (1Cor. 1:22). For again, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).
Grace is restorative. The father goes beyond what is expected of him because he desires reconciliation over penance (that is, some hardship or penalty in order to compensate for wrongdoing). The father restores the son to his proper place in the family; he does not accept anything less than right relationship with his son. He is clothed, he is fed, and he is celebrated. Likewise, God’s grace is restorative, moving beyond the forgiveness of sins towards reconciliation. For we too “once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 2:3-6). The son who was lost was dead, but now that he is found the son is alive. He has, in a sense, been resurrected from the dead! We, too, are no longer dead but alive in Christ–through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we are restored to our place as daughters and sons of God. And we look forward to our future bodily resurrection in which our restoration finds its ultimate fulfillment.
As we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ our Lord in this world, and to live as people who walk in the freedom and power of the Spirit, let us take the initiative that grace necessitates, let us bear the cost the grace requires, and let us seek the restoration that grace demands.
The more I read Cyril, the more I think, “I really like this dude.”
Cyril of Alexandria on the Holy Spirit and unity within the Church:
“All of us who have received the one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense merged together with one another and with God. For if Christ, together with the Spirit of the Father and himself, comes to dwell in each one of us, even though there are many of us, then it follows that the Spirit is still one and undivided. He binds together the spirit of each and every one of us […] and makes us all appear as one in him. For just as the power of the holy flesh of Christ united those in who it dwells into one body, I think that, in much the same way, the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in us all, leads us all into spiritual unity.”*
*Quote taken from The Christian Theology Reader, edited by Alister McGrath
Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible is scheduled to be released by Oxford University Press on July 19th and this blog will be the coordinating hub for a book blog tour. I am excited about this book. Law has described it as a “…narrative history of the Septuagint’s origins and influence in early Jewish but especially Christian history,” which means it “does not attempt to be another introductory textbook…but narrates the story in an original way.” Since the Greek Bible proved to be very influential for incipit Christianity this study should be attractive to readers of this blog.
Tentatively, this is the schedule for the tour, i.e., what chapters will be reviewed, by whom, and when:
BRIAN LePORT (Friday, July 19th)
Introducing the blog tour
JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st, http://unsettledchristianity.com/)
1 Why this Book?
2 When the…
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“The same Amma [Theodora] said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vainglory, and pride. A teacher should not be fooled by flattery, nor be blinded by gifts, conquered by the stomach, nor dominated by anger. A teacher should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; successfully tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.”
– Theodora 5, in Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers
As I was preparing to present an argument for Egalitarianism at my church’s Elephant in the Room series (last night’s topic was gender roles in the Church and home), I came across this quote from N.T. Wright’s paper Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis from CBE’s conference in 2004:
Many people have said, and I have often enough said it myself, that the creation of man and woman in their two genders is a vital part of what it means that humans are created in God’s image. I now regard that as a mistake. After all, not only the animal kingdom, as noted in Genesis itself, but also the plant kingdom, as noted by the reference to seed, have their male and female. The two-gender factor is not at all specific to human beings, but runs right through a fair amount of the rest of creation. This doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, indeed it means if anything it’s all the more important; being male and being female, and working out what that means, is something most of creation is called to do and be, and unless we are to collapse into a kind of gnosticism, where the way things are in creation is regarded as secondary and shabby over against what we are now to do with it, we have to recognise, respect and respond to this call of God to live in the world he has made and as the people he has made us. It’s just that we can’t use the argument that being male-plus-female is somehow what being God’s imagebearers actually means.
Now, I had read this paper before but somehow I missed this point. It really stuck out to me when reading over it again this past weekend. So, what do you think? Does Genesis 1:28 demonstrate that male and female are part of what it means to be created in the image of God? Or is Wright right (ha!) in his observation that (from this passage at least) one cannot argue that maleness and femaleness are specifically unique for God’s imagebearers?
Further along in his paper, Wright states:
When humans are renewed in the Messiah and raised from the dead, they will be set in authority over the angels (6.3). In worship, the church anticipates how things are going to be in that new day. When a woman is praying or prophesying (perhaps in the language of angels, as in 13.1), she needs to be truly what she is, since it is to male and female alike, in their mutual interdependence as God’s image-bearing creatures, that the world, including the angels, is to be subject. God’s creation needs humans to be fully, gloriously and truly human, which means fully and truly male and female. This, and of course much else besides, is to be glimpsed in worship.
This is something I am still working through as I attempt to solidify my understanding of gender roles. While I agree that men and women are different, and that being female is different from being male, I also recognize that some women are different from other women, and some men are different from other men. This is in large part because of my own personal experience. Surprise, surprise, I do not always easily identify with what is typically characterized as ‘Biblical womanhood’. Nothing aggravates me more than being told that men want most to be respected and honored while women want most to be loved and cherished. I, along with Aretha Franklin, heartily disagree. And isn’t Don Draper’s big life question “Am I loved?” It’s frustrating to be told women are more emotional (with the implication that this is a weakness) and social than men while men are more goal-oriented. Have you ever met a female introvert? We aren’t really that social. I also know lots of women that are goal-oriented and very good at achieving said goals. Sorry to burst your stereo-typical gender bubble!
I think qualities like bravery and the desire to protect are not masculine traits, nor is nurturing a feminine trait. They are human traits that humans naturally have to a varying degree, both male and female, and that all Spirit-filled people should work to develop in themselves as the Spirit works in them.
What do you think?
Here’s a video with highlights from Wright’s lecture: