What Do I Look To You?
I am gold. Among all the metals, I can easily be shaped and reshaped. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I used to be the easiest person to influence. I’ve developed a keener eye now and a more critical judgment of things. Back then, I would read a few quotes from an author and I would instantly believe in the person against already fragmented beliefs lodged in my head. Thanks to my college education in the country’s bastion of academic freedom, I have become more discerning in putting faith where faith ought to be for me. I’ve gained more knowledge, so much more knowledge, but at the same time created for myself a narrower perspective of life. This narrower sense means I’ve become more specific with the structure of my thinking. I’ve become a bullion more compact and dense from a boring, gray rock with shine on chosen places.
Last Sunday a friend was telling me how Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead vocals, became very instrumental in her Christian life. I thought about the idea for a minute and realized that I didn’t really look up to anyone in terms of their relationship with God save for G.K. Chesterton whose wisdom of the Bible I very much admire.
I’ve become very individualistic to believe that sometimes, it isn’t worth someone’s while to admire a personal relationship from observing the results of it. Yes, the cliche but nonetheless meaningful concept of the ‘overflow’ is true and essential but on the one hand it is possible to appear to bear fruit. Let me quote Machiavelli from my fragmented resource of past readings, “For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.” The Bible was firm in saying that we should not judge outward appearance but rather rely on God to show us the heart of the person. I would like to go a different way with this verse and see it in light of appearances whether it be how we perceive a person’s character or personality and not just how the person dresses. I don’t find enough stable ground for a person to claim a person has a blooming relationship with the Savior just because the person appears to be having fun with life. My premise for this would be that a personal relationship is personal and what goes on in that private space is unknowable unless told and revealed.
This is not to say that the overflow should stop overflowing. A lot of Christians bear fruit because God lets them. It is natural and it will happen. It is as natural as the ability to admire, to worship and to look up. That is the nature of humankind. But when the nature is applied to the unnatural or connected to what isn’t naturally its connection, that’s where the problem starts.
The process is that of being anointed and allowing the anointing to work and returning the adoration to Him who gave the anointing. It shouldn’t stop at any point in the process.
I can finish here and say as a conclusion that Jesus, the center of it all, is connected equally to every part in the “all”. There is no greater connection and no shorter wire.
I’ve been in a lot of churches to say that this danger of judging by appearances is a tendency. It’s not a practice but a tendency and the danger lies in that a tendency can become a practice without those practicing actually knowing it. Promotion can happen through this tendency. The fallback is with the church when the promoted person appeared to have had a “better” relationship than those in the former levels of the person and turned out to have been the same. The principle of “the first will be the last and the last will be the first” comes in here handy. It has been and will be the same for the whole of Jesus’ church. Every single part of the church is a work in progress, a journey of struggles, a dead person walking. There was never a hierarchy of any sort – of leaders having more access to God, of worshipers being more pleasant, of articulate preachers being more closer to heaven than anyone else. The race Paul mentioned in his letter to the Philippians wasn’t a race against Christians and whether he would finish first over them but a race in himself toward the prize that is Jesus Christ. It was intrinsic.
We are malleable pieces of gold, but gold just the same.
Paul put it simply in Romans 14: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
Stumbling blocks can come in the form of showing people that they are less worthy of the cause of Christ because of exemplifying a relationship less visual than those in the spotlight. It is pride saying that, “Ah, I know so much more than this person and I’ve prayed to Christ a lot of times than this person, with prayers more articulate than the ones I’ve heard from this person, ah, I’m living for the cause of Him.”
Romans 14 is saying that Christians are of different strengths, gifts and capacities and this diversity doesn’t matter. At all. Each one is looking not to fellow Christians for approval but to God alone. I’d like to quote a text message I received from a friend earlier this week: “For what is great and what is small, the Lord alone can tell. We lose the approval of God when we seek the applause of man.”