08 August 2014

Greatness In a Dark Time

Some say that most of the time everyone wants to be great, because they have a natural desire for acceptance, recognition, and praise. Perhaps this is so.

And in a dark and pathological time this means that everyone wants to have power. Power becomes the standard of value, the coin of the realm in a deeply fallen world.  And in such a perverse world the only virtue is greed. 

So they who serve the world want to be tough guys, unafraid, quick and intemperate on the attack, harsh.  Yes that is the mark of power, of one of the formidable wielders of weapons. As if there can be any just weapon that we may take up on our own, that is not given to us by the Lord for His purpose.

If by some chance that person may also wish to serve God, then they may desire that they could take up the sword like an avenging angel, and smite those enemies of God, who are all too often those who merely annoy and offend them. This is because their idea of what it is to be a human being has been subtly poisoned by the times; in their brokenness they exalt themselves.

And all too often that feeling of offense simply becomes a blind hatred of 'the other.' The other may merely be the different, and interfering 'do-gooders' who try to help them, and finally all of the weak.  The will to power despises weakness.  Then they are no longer of God, but have given themselves over to the darkness.  And they fully become its creatures.  Those who take up the sword for their own purposes in God's name will die by it in a death without redemption.

This is a subtle but very effective snare, a sin wholly against the Spirit. We embrace the world and its values not in our love of it, but in our hatred of it as we see it. And so we grasp that same sword of power wielded by the forces of darkness in high places. And we use it as we will with intoxication, and are lost.
This is not service, or greatness, not as counted in God's economy. This is a willfulness and a destruction of the self that comes from sin, but that in its own insidious way may encompass many of the trappings of a religion: the ornaments of ritual, and symbols, and all the showiness, the noise and pomp of human office-- but always and remarkably devoid of God's love. 
We may love the services and outward manifestations as we prefer them, the old and familiar or the hip and modern or whatever our personal preference may be, but come to hate the very Church that gives them life and meaning.  We destroy our beloved because we will to possess, to compel, not to love.
Worldly power is a perversion of heavenly power in that it expresses itself in the ability not to create and fulfill life, but to diminish and destroy it. And it exults in what it thinks is its power over life, which is death. How much money, how much power is enough? The will to power is a pathological sickness, that becomes all consuming and insatiable.  And thereby in the excesses it anoints its angels of death.

Be on your guard always, and do not allow yourselves to be among those simple ones who will be taken in during the dark times, as the love of many grows cold. Stand firmly, but humbly, to the end. And you will have your greatness.

"Do you desire to be great? make yourselves little. There is a mysterious connexion between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succour the distressed; if you bear with the froward, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works.

His instruments are poor and despised; the world hardly knows their names, or not at all. They are busied about what the world thinks petty actions, and no one minds them. They are apparently set on no great works; nothing is seen to come of what they do: they seem to fail. Nay, even as regards religious objects which they themselves profess to desire, there is no natural and visible connexion between their doings and sufferings and these desirable ends; but there is an unseen connexion in the kingdom of God. They rise by falling...

Let this be the settled view of all who would promote Christ's cause upon earth. If we are true to ourselves, nothing can really thwart us. Our warfare is not with carnal weapons, but with heavenly. The world does not understand what our real power is, and where it lies. And until we put ourselves into its hands of our own act, it can do nothing against us. Till we leave off patience, meekness, purity, resignation, and peace, it can do nothing against that Truth which is our birthright, that Cause which is ours, as it has been the cause of all saints before us.

But let all who would labour for God in a dark time beware of any thing which ruffles, excites, and in any way withdraws them from the love of God and Christ, and simple obedience to Him...

Such is the rule of our warfare We advance by yielding; we rise by falling; we conquer by suffering; we persuade by silence; we become rich by bountifulness ; we inherit the earth through meekness; we gain comfort through mourning; we earn glory by penitence and prayer. Heaven and earth shall sooner fall than this rule be reversed; it is the law of Christ's kingdom, and nothing can reverse it but sin."

John Henry Newman

" ...if I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he's travelling wrong, then my living will not be in vain."

Martin Luther King

"Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things...

Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purpose in life, it would be good enough to live for their sake."

Garrison Keillor