I’m writing this as a warm-up piece, don’t know when I’ll actually post it. It might ramble a little.
I’m at an action scene in my book, which takes a lot of energy to write. For the unaware, writing can be incredibly exhausting. It’s like exercise, though. It’s good for you, and once you’ve done your “workout” for the day, you’re a lot happier and at peace with yourself.
I started taking a class on Wednesday nights, a church “midweek refresher” kind of thing. For those who’ve known me for a long time, you know that I eschewed Bible studies years ago. I know you know because I got a lot of pushback on my position, which I still hold to. Lifelong Christians spend their childhoods learning scripture in Sunday school and church, only to graduate to adult Bible studies post high school. In these adult Bible studies, they sit and argue over the meanings of passages and terms; some of the hardcore debaters bring their Strongs’ and transliterations. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that wrangling over words in Bible studies has become synonymous with being a (caveat: Protestant) Christian for many people. Therefore, they never quit this phase of student life because it’s what Christianity means to them. By contrast, it’s my contention that we shouldn’t be students all our lives. We should go forward into the life of Christian vocation.
I don’t mean that we should ever stop reading the sacred scriptures and meditating on it. In fact, this is one reason I appreciate the liturgical calendar. Not only is the Word of God spoken out loud to the congregation every Sunday, there are passages to be read daily. I get them here. What I’m opposed to is continuing to sit in a hot stuffy room (or a drafty cold one) and arguing about what every passage means down to the letter of each Greek and Hebrew word, long after the student days have ended. Apprenticeships are meant to turn into vocations. Vocations do require upkeep, but they don’t require the kind of intense learning that a student engages in.
That is all philosophical, though. The truth is I used to have two modes: the observation and thinking mode; and the combative one, where I had to argue everything because my ego was wrapped up in knowing more than others. I still have two modes (quiet observation and thinking; then speaking), but my ego is no longer wrapped up in knowing more than others. Knowledge is useful, but when is it enough? When do I have enough knowledge to “armor” me into becoming an active agent in the world?
This midweek refresher does verge on being a Bible study. And that’s okay, I think; it’s an upkeep class for me, one that brings me and hopefully others necessary encouragement. And the funny thing is God knows what we need. He knows before we ask. So when I signed up for this course — there were three options — I didn’t know that the above was exactly what the teachers would be talking about.
The class subject is becoming a conqueror by putting on the armor of God. When we put on this armor, we don’t remain frozen as an inanimate suit of metal. There happens to be an inanimate suit of armor in the school room where this class meets (the church has a private school attached). It looks sturdy and ready to go into battle, but it’s hollow inside and therefore can’t move. What’s the purpose of armor that remains frozen in a room? The spiritual application is that we are to be not just hearers of the word, but also doers of the word. And how do we do that? We begin with truth. Not the truth of the world, which adds qualifiers such as my truth or their truth, but a First Principles truth that creates a foundation for everything else. This is also not the kind of truth that emerges from wrangling over which Bible student has the most clever insight into a passage. It’s not about a Bible student’s ego. And God’s truth is greater than any clever insight we could come up with. God’s truth is quite literally the foundation of the universe.
This First Principles truth is the foundation that carries us out into the world to do what God has called us to do. And doing what God has called us to do brings us peace. Going back to my first paragraph, it brings me peace when I complete tasks like exercise, writing, and editing. How much greater peace will I have when I am actively fulfilling God’s purpose for my life? This is the subject we discussed in class last evening, and I think it’s very important — also something that I’ve been struggling with for years: the peace with God vs the peace of God.
Of vs with? Isn’t that wrangling over words a little? Maybe, but it’s also highlighting a straightforward biblical concept. When we are saved through Jesus, we have made peace with God. We are no longer fighting against him. When we act out our salvation (that is, when we are inspired by our salvation), we have the peace of God that can only come from living according to his will and purpose. And that peace, which comes from pleasing God by our actions, leads to our joy.