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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.

life togetherWhere 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 imageInstead, 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?!?!  

Evidently.

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.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tyler #

    Last paragraph, brilliant.

    January 24, 2013
  2. Calvin Capostinsky #

    “Lord grant us wisdom to discern when what is false must be revealed, or when we need your grace and strength to close our lips and keep them sealed!”
    (from a Daily Bread devotional a few years back).
    “Set a watch O Lord before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.” (Ps. 141:3, KJ)

    I pray the above prayer every morning . . . but (too often) before the day is over I am
    regretting something I said, and asking God for forgiveness . . . or someone!
    As James states in chapter 3 of his epistle “the tongue can no man tame!”

    January 24, 2013
  3. Great post! For my part, I used to join in the anti-Driscoll rants online and listen with horrid fascination at whatever he said in the moment. For the most part, these days I just ignore him. The internet (and the media) explodes when it gets a good soundbite. And yet reality is always more complex. I believe Obama when he says he is a Christian; I also disbelieve that much of what he does as president is particularly Christian (Anabaptist sensibilities and all).

    January 25, 2013
    • I worry about how the internet is conditioning us to flock to soundbites rather than acknowledging and negotiating complexity. There are so many examples, one would scarcely know where to begin. The very fact that “tweets”—from anyone—are now considered newsworthy is, I think, an indictment of our culture on a number of levels.

      I believe Obama when he says he is a Christian as well. Of course, some of his policies don’t square with my convictions as a Christian… But then, a lot of what I say and do doesn’t square with my professed convictions either :).

      January 25, 2013
  4. mike #

    …Wow,man your GOOD…
    ” I have been reading a bit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer this week in preparing for a sermon on the nature and shape of Christian community” .. I would love to hear/read THAT sermon.

    (Just an observation about the picture on the cover of Bonhoeffer’s book: The hand appears to have been photoshopped into the picture. imo)

    January 25, 2013
    • Ha! I’ve never noticed that before, but you’re right—totally looks photo-shopped!

      January 25, 2013
  5. Bonhoeffer’s right, still I can’t help but be upset by the Driscoll thing.

    It’s not so much that he makes declarations he’s not qualified to make (we all do that sometimes) it’s that so many would never question what he teachers or models, simply because he is who he is. The dynamics behind the ‘Christian Celebrity Cult’ is as alive today as ever.

    We still want a ‘Moses’ to talk to God for us and tell us what God wants, what He’s like, what to believe about pretty much everything.

    We may not care to admit it but we are sheep- we follow 🙂 Sadly, it’s been my observation that we are far more likely to turn to a Driscoll or a (insert favorite author or speaker here) than we are to Jesus – the exact representation of the Father – for our understanding of God and what it means to be a Christian.

    My heart is that we:
    1. Accept we are sheep (we are absolutely wired to follow- we WILL follow someone)
    2. will return to Jesus teaching, example and guidance when we want to deepen our understanding of all things pertaining to our faith.

    I’ve learned a lot from people. There are wise and loving Christians who show up in our lives and we learn from them- It’s been my experience that the best ‘teachers’ always, always lead me back to Christ.

    Their job isn’t to tell me what God is like- or what He wants. Their job is to open the gate, hand me over to the Sheppard, Jesus and let His life and words be the ‘rod and staff’ that guides me in my quest to know the true nature of God.
    God is exactly like Jesus, There is nowhere else to go.

    Anyway…. I hope this hasn’t been too much of a rabbit trail 🙂 You made me think… a lot, about a lot of things!

    February 1, 2013
    • Very, very well said. I especially liked this:

      We may not care to admit it but we are sheep- we follow Sadly, it’s been my observation that we are far more likely to turn to a Driscoll or a (insert favorite author or speaker here) than we are to Jesus – the exact representation of the Father – for our understanding of God and what it means to be a Christian.

      And this:

      It’s been my experience that the best ‘teachers’ always, always lead me back to Christ.

      Thanks for sharing this.

      February 1, 2013
      • mike #

        ..Yeah,that WAS a good comment by The Caffeinated Mystic. I think we are constantly expanding/evolving as we develop and refine our conscious understanding (theology) of who the Christ actually represents and what he stands for.The Christ and God i believed in 10 years ago is not intellectually the same Christ/God i believe in today, He (or I) evolved through the process of discovery, and the revelation continues.

        February 2, 2013
      • You are most welcome Ryan, Thank you for making me think! (again) 🙂

        February 3, 2013

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