As a respite from pondering the reasons for sorrow and concern about the state of public and political affairs in the United States in this election cycle, I found myself meditating on the deeply hopeful inspiration that comes of having faith in God and Jesus Christ.
In many ways, at present, I and my family are in the midst of material difficulties that people spend their whole lives striving to avoid. We have literally been living off of small miracles, since the position's events require me to take run counter to just about all the powers-that-be in control of America's material life, as well as the shrewd exploitation of anger and frustration presently beguiling many well-intentioned Americans to give themselves over to the destruction of their good character and liberty as a people.
In such circumstances, things seem more and more beyond our power to cope. We are tempted to believe that's a bad thing. But I'm not at all sure Christ would agree. After all, he set before us a standard that seems, on the face of it, well beyond our mortal power. "Be ye perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect." In all things, small and great, God is faithful. As Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues, a sparrow does not fall without his notice, nor do nations rise or fall without the purpose of His aid.
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But even in the little things, things we might do with but a heartfelt thought, like prayer, or in a moment, like the time it takes share a word fitly spoken – even in these little things, we fall short of the standard of God. As for larger things, like the choices we must make as parents or citizens, consequences flow from them that are beyond our power to conceive, much less control. Because of our poor power, what we do rightly always seems inadequate. And despite our weakness, what we do wrongly has consequences that may reach to lifetimes we will not live to see. Whether within or beyond the measure of our reach, the perfection of God seems beyond our scope. How can it be the standard for our existence?
According to our human way of understanding, we are not held responsible for actions we lack the power to perform. Why the does Christ demand that we strive to bring to perfection tasks of which only God is capable? But just when we're tempted to settle for what this all-too-human reasoning invites us to excuse, the voice of faith responds to reason. Not faith, as some would have it, in the sense of irrational belief. But faith in the other sense of that word, the sense that reaches out to trust the One we believe, on evidence that becomes us, and therefore convinces us to act with reference to an aspect of our existence that remains unseen within. This trust is, as it were, a ratio in which the being we are to be, by the will of God, is the common denominator that informs, in relation to our hope, the rational measures we undertake to perfect it.
But if it is beyond our power to realize this common denominator as a perfect whole, are the measures we undertake rational, or simply a "leap of faith," unaccountable in terms of our reasoning? The answer has everything to do with our trust in Christ. He walked the earth in human form, to represent to us the perfection of our being, according to God's will. His life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection affirm the truth that that perfection is not beyond the scope of human existence. But that affirmation, though true of humanity in general, is possible for each of us, in particular, only insofar as Christ enters into our existence, so that what we are in human form lives in communion with what Christ was and is in fact, thereby completing the perfection of God's will for our humanity.
Like a wedding garment, fit for the occasion, Christ becomes us; so that what we may become as human beings perfectly expresses the will of God for our existence, which is the perfection of God in Creation. Thus, though the perfection of God is, for us on our own, a bridge to far; our reliance upon Jesus Christ brings it near for our fulfillment. What we could never do alone, we may strive to do with confidence in Jesus Christ. As with God all things are possible, so for us, in Christ, all the possibilities that God intends in us cease to be impossible. The command to hold fast to the standard of God is, therefore, not a burden like as not to crush our spirit, but a reminder that we cannot attain the being God intends for us on our own. For the being God intends for us is like unto His. Without Him, it is not possible to conceive, much less attain it. But with Christ within, we need never be without God, nor bereft of His power to bring within our reach whatever perfection His will calls upon us to imagine.
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Once upon a time in America, Christians who trusted implicitly in this perfecting power of God in Christ never let go the standard of God's perfection: be it for our happiness as individuals, or for our justice as a community of human beings. With the confidence that God intends, we obeyed Christ's imperative to "Fear not: for better are you than many sparrows." We succumbed to no voice that lowered our sense of what we could achieve as human beings determined to answer God's vocation of right. Therefore, we rose to greatness. But it was not because we aimed to be great. It was because we humbly prayed the publican's prayer, asking God to forgive us the strength to be what is simpler and better than greatness – which is to be as good as He would have us be, as good as we can never be without Him.
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