Meekness and majesty

Christ 68

He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him, and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine.

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No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break, his whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all of our stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes.

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He saved others, yet at the last Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.

– James S. Stewart
(1896–1990)

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The magnificent defeat

Christ, victorious

He compelled their dark achievements to subserve His end, not theirs. They nailed Him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to His feet.

They gave Him a cross,
not guessing that
He would make it
a throne.

They flung Him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King come in. They thought to root out His doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had defeated God with His back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.

James S. Stewart
(1896–1990)

Published in: on 06/24/2014 at 19:09  Leave a Comment  
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A down to earth God

christ-and-the-children

The doctrine of the Incarnation means that God has come right into the midst of the tumult and the shouting of this world. In the most literal sense, it was a “down to earth” realism that gave the Gospel birth. Therefore to separate Christianity from social concern is to corrupt it at its roots; in the strong language of the apostle, it is to “make God a liar.”

When Jesus was born of Mary in the stable at Bethlehem, when He toiled at a carpenter’s bench in Nazareth, when He walked the crowded ways and lovingly identified Himself with the struggles and the miseries of men, when He suffered under Pontius Pilate, it was a declaration that divine eternal truth and the tough concrete actualities of the human situation belong together; and “what God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” It is an unholy divorce those Christians are aiding and abetting who separate “spiritual” religion from such “material” issues as feeding the hungry, rescuing the refugee, and enfranchising the racially disinherited.

–James Stewart
A Faith to Proclaim

Image: Emil Nolde

Burden or Wings?

The evangel of an ethical example is a devastating thing. It makes religion the most grievous of burdens. Perhaps this is the real reason why, even among professing Christians, there are so many strained faces and weary hearts and captive, unreleased spirits. They have listened to Jesus’ teaching, they have meditated on Jesus’ character; and then they have  risen up, and tried to drive their own lives along Jesus’ royal way. Disappointment heaped on bitter disappointment has been the result. The great example has been a dead-weight  beating them down, bearing them to the ground, bowing their hopeless souls in the dust.

One of the vital distinctions between
true religion and false is that,
whereas the latter is a dead burden
for the soul to carry, the former
is a living power to carry the soul.

Paul’s mysticism grows lyrical with precisely this great discovery. “Christ in me” means something quite different from the weight of an impossible ideal, something far more glorious than the oppression of a pattern for ever beyond all imitation. “Christ in me” means Christ bearing me along from within, Christ the motive-power that carries me on, Christ giving my whole life a wonderful poise and lift, and turning every burden into wings. All this is in it when the apostle speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Compared with this, the religion which bases everything on example is pitifully rudimentary. This, and this alone, is the true Christian religion. To be “in Christ,” to have Christ within, to realize your creed not as something you have to bear but as something by which you are born, this is Christianity. It is more: it is release and liberty, life with an endless song at its heart. It means feeling within you, as long as life here lasts, the carrying power of Love Almighty; and underneath you, when you come to die, the touch of everlasting arms.

–James Stewart

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