God Does Not Want Me to Mold Others Into My Own Image
Apparently Mark Driscoll has opened his mouth (or his Twitter account) again—this time about the recent US presidential inauguration ceremony and what it says about the state of Barack Obama’s (lack of) belief—and in so doing has managed to make a lot of people either very happy or very angry. The tweets and retweets are flying around the internet, as well as the obligatory “responses” where Christian commentators devote a great number of words to either praising or condemning Mr. Driscoll for his, a) thoroughly orthodox and courageous clarity; or b) narrow-minded judgmental rigidity. It’s all very inspiring fare, to be sure.
I confess that it took some doing to resist the temptation to jump right into the fray. I agree with very little that Mark Driscoll says, and found his latest proclamation to be, shall we say, misguided, on a number of levels. But I have been reading a bit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer this week in preparing for a sermon on the nature and shape of Christian community, and reading Bonhoeffer has an unsettling tendency to illumine and expose some of my most cherished and reflexive tendencies (tendencies toward, say, sarcasm… or proving that I am right… or sarcasm…). This is a passage from Life Together where Bonhoeffer is discussing Ephesians 4:29 (“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up…”). It stopped me in my tracks.
Where this discipline of the tongues is practiced right from the start, individuals will make an amazing discovery. They will be able to stop constantly keeping an eye on others, judging them, condemning them, and putting them in their places and thus doing violence to them. They can now allow other Christians to live freely, just as God has brought them face to face with each other. The view of such persons expands and, to their amazement, they recognize for the first time the richness of God’s creative glory shining over their brothers and sisters.
God did not make others as I would have made them. God did not give them to me so that I could dominate and control them, but so that I might find the Creator by means of them. Now other people, in the freedom with which they were created, become an occasion for me to rejoice, whereas before they were only a nuisance and trouble for me. God does not want me to mold others into the image that seems good to me, that is, into my own image. Instead, in their freedom from me God made other people in God’s own image. That image always takes on a completely new and unique form whose origin is found solely in God’s free and sovereign act of creation.
Does Bonhoeffer seriously mean to deprive me of the pleasures of ridiculing people who think wrongly (i.e., not like me) thus demonstrating my moral/intellectual/spiritual superiority and theological acumen? Does he seriously mean for me to consider the possibility that it’s OK for people like Mark Driscoll to think wrongly and speak stupidly in public (again, “wrongly” and “stupidly” = “not like what I would think or say”) and that it is not necessarily my job to police the borders of public theological expression (again, with the happy consequence of demonstrating my own moral superiority and theological acumen)? Is he seriously saying that I ought rather to seek ways to “find the Creator” by means of people so, well unlike me, as Mark Driscoll?!?!
Of course, if Bonhoeffer’s wisdom were implemented on anything resembling a broad scale, the Internet would come to resemble something like a cyber-ghost town. Or at least those portions of it that are devoted to discourse about religion. Whatever would we do with ourselves online, after all, if we weren’t “constantly keeping an eye on others, judging them, condemning them, and putting them in their places and thus doing violence to them?” I wonder.