My daughter was telling me why she didn’t like a certain Bible teacher, summing it up with this story:
“She and her husband went to an office Christmas party – of course she wouldn’t say whose – and after overhearing the ungodly conversations of the ungodly co-workers, they vowed never to go to an office Christmas party again.”
“I would have been way more inspired,” she continued, “if the woman had told a story about going to the party, learning something about the co-workers’ lives and entering in – perhaps visiting one in rehab or the hospital, meeting a need.”
In other words, a story about bringing Jesus into the midst of their ungodly lives rather than fleeing from them.
“Don’t be too quick to write that teacher off, she just isn’t there yet,” I said.
“Not there yet? She’s in her fifties! And she’s a Bible teacher.”
Lot’s of Bible teachers aren’t there yet.
Where is There?
It’s beyond the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments are all about behavior. The first four dictate our behavior toward God and the following six dictate our behavior toward one another: Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie about one another, don’t commit adultery against one another, don’t covet one another’s stuff, don’t give your parents grief.
Lots of Bible teachers live in that list – mastering it, teaching it, warning against disobeying it.
And then Jesus comes along and says, “A new command I give you: Love one another.” John 13:34a NIV [italics added]
Beyond good behavior is love.
Beyond not harming anyone is actually loving them.
The Pharisees were all about perfecting their own behavior and judging the ungodliness of everyone else. They piled on the rules, they raised the bars.
And to that Jesus said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
Don’t flee from them, lift a finger to help them. Maybe even lay down your pristine, unpolluted life (James 1:27) to get to know them.
Jesus went on to say, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34b [italics added again]
As I have loved you. That’s big love.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV
And that brings me to Silence.
A few days later my daughter saw the movie Silence and our conversation continued.
In the movie, after much angst and suffering, a Jesuit priest apostatized – not to save himself, but to save the Japanese Christians among whom he was a missionary.
He went beyond good behavior to love.
He laid down his Jesuit reputation to save his friends.
And he stomped on Jesus.
Some might gasp.
And quote Jesus:
“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:33
And conclude that he is doomed.
But in the movie, after much prayer, Jesus told Father Rodrigues to step on His image.
And that might be the ultimate There: To lay down one’s eternal life for one’s friends.
I don’t believe that Father Rodrigues lost his eternal life, but he was willing to take that gamble.
I read an article about the movie which shed a little light:
A Jesuit spiritual tradition may also be helpful here. In the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius speaks of three levels, or “degrees,” of humility. The first level is when one does nothing morally wrong. In other words, one leads a good life. The second level is when a person who, when presented with the choice of riches or poverty, honor or disgrace, is free of the need for either. In other words, the person is free to accept whatever God desires, not being “attached” to one state or the other.
The third level of humility, the highest, is when a person is able to choose something dishonorable because it brings him or her closer to Christ. “I desire to be regarded as a useless fool for Christ, who before me was regarded as such,” in the words of the Spiritual Exercises. A person accepts being misunderstood, perhaps by everyone, just as Christ was.
This is what Father Rodrigues chooses, confusing as it may be to Christian Europe, to his Jesuit superiors—and even to modern-day filmgoers. – America, the Jesuit Review
Right now that Bible teacher is trying real hard not to do anything morally wrong and to keep herself from being polluted by the world. Good for her. She’s setting a “good” example.
And some day she’ll risk her reputation among her fellow unpolluted Bible teachers to set an even better example – one that inspires.
She’ll get There. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to get her There.