Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Friendship of Christ: Chapter 9, Christ in the Sinner, and Chapter 10, Christ in the Average Man

 For Chapter 9, Christ in the Sinner, Erin reflects on a scripture passage in which the sinner and the saint are mirror images of each other:

Christ was crucified between two thieves, or revolutionaries, or both; between two Sinners. 

Christ died on the cross between a Sinner and a Saint. 

I think it is a little bit unfair to contemplate the Good Thief and think merely, "I am contemplating a Sinner."  It's not wrong—with few exceptions, all saints are sinners—but we are ignoring two things when we do this.  First, we are contemplating the Good Thief from a perspective that knows he is really a Saint as well; second, there is a perfectly appropriate example of a Sinner right there on Christ's other side

There will never be a better example of how Christ is reflected both in the Saint and in the Sinner.  The three men look alike in their agonies from the feet of the crosses.  Benson says, "For the crucifix and the Sinner are profoundly, and not merely superficially, alike in this—that both are what the rebellious self-will of man has made of the Image of God..."  Melanie Bettinelli and I have discussed this concept before as the concept of the "damaged icon."

So let's look at the other man.


Erin highlights Benson's point that the Saint and the Sinner are, in fact, mirror images of each other, and both openly mirror Christ. As Jesus said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." His lifting up on the cross was as Sin itself, and yet it is Christ as Sin that draws all men. 

What about everyone else who's neither Saint nor Sinner?

What about all the schlubs who are neither saints nor sinners? The folks just kinda doing their thing, living lives of quiet desperation, or not so quiet desperation, or maybe not desperate at all because they're good people, right? The jerk on the bus trying to impress a bored girl with some long story? The person holding up the check-out line to argue with the cashier about coupons? The clerk at the DMV who's spent the last five minutes gossiping with a co-worker about her sister-in-law while you're stuck in line? The people who are shallow, petty, ignorant, frustrating, self-absorbed?

All Christ.

Benson draws on the parable of the Last Judgment, with its separation of the sheep from the goats, and the ignorance -- "it would seem genuine and sincere ignorance," he notes -- of those being judged. The sheep are truly puzzled that they have been serving Christ all their lives. The goats are truly puzzled that they have not actually been serving Christ.

(Christians, note well: they did not realize that the way they were spending their lives was not actually serving Christ. Which means that they, who knew him, so they thought, thought also that they were serving him with deeds that he did not recognize.)

"But the explanation is not so difficult," Benson says.

It is that the ignorance is not complete. For it is a universal fact of experience that we all feel an instinctive drawing towards our neighbour which we cannot reject without a sense of moral guilt. It may be that owing to ignorance or wilful rejection of light a man may fail to understand or believe the Fatherhood of God and the claims of Jesus Christ; it may even be that he sincerely believes himself justified intellectually in explicitly denying those truths; but no man ever yet has lived a wholly selfish life from the beginning, no man has ever yet deliberately refused to love his neighbour or to deny the Brotherhood of man, without a consciousness, at soe period at least, that he is outraging his highest instincts. Christians know that the Second Greatest Commandment draws its force only from the First; yet, as a matter of fact, in spite of this, it is perfectly certain that though some men fail, for one reason or another, to feel the force of the First, no man has ever yet, without a sense of guilt, totally rejected the Second.

...Here then is an undeniable fact. The man who does not keep the Second Commandment cannot even implicitly be keeping the First: the man who rejects Christ in man cannot accept Christ as God." (emphasis added)

Finding Christ in the average person -- as he or she is right now -- "to do this perfectly and consistently is Sanctity."

Benson makes what I increasingly believe is a truth universally unacknowledged: that doing big exciting things because they are exciting is antithetical to Christianity. Not that projects large in scale can never be undertaken, of course -- but that the thrill of any given venture has nothing to do with whether or not God wills it, and indeed the thrill may be inversely proportionate to the call. is, therefore, a very real spiritual snare that we should mistake Christ's gifts for Christ, religiosity for religion, and the joys possible on earth for the joys awaiting us in heaven -- in a word, that we should mistake the saying of "Lord! Lord!" for the "doing the Will of the Father who is in Heaven." Continually and persistently, therefore, we have to test our progress by practical results. I find it easier and easier to worship Christ in the Tabernacle: do I therefore find it easier and easier to serve Christ in my neighbour? For, if not, I am making no real progress at all. I am not advancing, that is to say, along the whole line: I am pushing forward one department of my life to the expense of the rest: I am not developing my own Friendship with Christ: I am developing, rather, my own conception of His Friendship (which is a totally different thing).

Which leads back to the schlubs. We each have our own conception of what is attractive, even if it is one the World does not share; we each have our own way of seeing the diamond in the rough or hidden worth. Most people do not fall into our private category of loveability, and indeed, our private categories are irrelevant to a person's absolute worth in Christ. Better to learn and live this truth on earth than discover it to our horror at the separation of the sheep and the goats.

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