23 October 2007

Gerhard on Imitation of Christ

At our recent Pastors' Conference in Jefferson City, one brother and I enjoyed some of God's "First Article gift" of really good single malt Scotch and discussed how we need not divorce Jesus' saving work from His example for all of the Christian's life. It would seem that Gerhard can also hold these two Scriptural truths together:

"The holy life of Christ is the most perfect model of virtue we can have; every action of His is rich in instruction for us…. Unless thou are willing to be a disciple of Christ, thou wilt never be a true Christian. Let the passion of Christ be thy merit, but at the same time let His holy life be the model for thine" (Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, Meditation XXX, “The Imitation of Christ,” p. 169).

7 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

The idea of divorcing the two struck me as so bizarre! It's so UNPauline! But then when I read your quote, it seemed to make some sense. One must follow Christ without supposing that earns any merit; is that it?

But the idea of striving to live the Christian life is NOT connected with anything about trying to get God to give us anything in return.

Rather, to live the Christian life is, in the first place, a manifestation and exercise of love. If you love someone, yhou want to be like Himn, and one with Him in every way, so you clean up your act accordinly.

The living of the Christian life, in the second place (which is really the first place considered from another angle), enlarges our capacity to receive (or contain) all the gifts God has *already* given us by pure grace. God freely gives us all things, but to contain and retain them, like anything else worthwhile, requires practice. YIt doesn't happen magically, as some imagine. You have to practice to be able to play a piano concerto; you have to work out a lot to be able to lift heavy weights. And you have to do spiritual exercises to be able to enlarge your spirit, that your soul may be a more spacious container when God pours heaven into it (Heaven = Himself). In Jesus' imagery, you have to tend and cultivate the tree so that it will grow to produce many fruits. (The fruits aren't the good works offered to God; cultivating the tneding the tree are. The fruits are Christ Himself, given to YOU.) You have to invest the talent. Otherwise even what little we have will be taken from us in the end, meaning we will enter heaven having no spiritual eyes or ears or legs or hands -- in short, totally unequipped to live there and what should have been heaven will be the opposite.

In St. Paul's imagery, the whole Christian life consists in participation in Christ's passion, dying with Him as the persons we once were, rising with Him to a new kind of being, and living unto Him in that resurrection life.

"If anyone would be My disciple, let Him take up his cross and deny himself and follow me" sums up the whole of the Christian life.

Anastasia

Randy Asburry said...

Hi, Anastasia!

You wrote:

The idea of divorcing the two struck me as so bizarre! It's so UNPauline! But then when I read your quote, it seemed to make some sense. One must follow Christ without supposing that earns any merit; is that it?

Yes, indeed, that's it. The Western Church of Luther's day was so rife with the notion of "merits to appease God" that Luther and the other Reformers wanted to keep it clear that we don't do anything to merit or earn God's favor. Hence, we see quotes such as this one from Gerhard as he later continues this careful thought and delineation.

I rejoice in this quote from Gerhard because it keeps both God's love and forgiveness and the Christian's life of good works (practice, tending the vine, etc.) married together. In our Lutheran circles today, we seem to separate what God has joined together in that we shy away from talking much about the good words or about growing in God's love, grace, mercy and forgiveness for fear of slipping back into the "works righteousness" from which the Reformers sought to steer clear.

You also wrote:

In St. Paul's imagery, the whole Christian life consists in participation in Christ's passion, dying with Him as the persons we once were, rising with Him to a new kind of being, and living unto Him in that resurrection life.

Again, yes, indeed! That's exactly what Luther said in the Small Catechism as he "fleshed out" the meaning of Baptism for the Christians' life:

"What does such baptizing with water indicate?

"It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."

Christine said...

"What does such baptizing with water indicate?

"It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."

Because of the power of water joined to the Word, which always accomplishes what it says, just as that Word spoken over bread and wine cause them to become the bearers of Him who becomes our True Bread and True Drink.

I've always appreciated Luther's insight that Holy Baptism, although a one-time sacramental event is a spiritual fount from which we can draw daily and tell the evil one "I am baptized, a child of God" whenever the tempter tries to install doubt in us of God's everlasting covenantal love in Christ Jesus.

That is gift. Pure, grace-filled gift.

Randy Asburry said...

Christine,

What more can I say, than a hearty, "Amen!" (And that's more than plenty to say!)

Christine said...

Amen indeed, Pastor!

By the way, please forgive the digression from the topic at hand, but I must know -- are Porthos and Gimli looking longingly at Pastor Weedon's blog where Lucy is surely in line to receive the "best dressed Beagle" award?

Randy Asburry said...

Christine,

Too funny! No, I don't think they're looking longingly at Lucy for being "best dressed Beagle." They'll gladly let her have that distinction. Not only would each of them shake until every last article of clothing flew off, but each of them would certainly delight in tearing said clothing off of the other as they wrestle and chase each other around the house! :-)

Christine said...

each of them would certainly delight in tearing said clothing off of the other as they wrestle and chase each other around the house! :-)

Oh what fun! That's the great part about having two dogs. They have the best of both worlds, their human companions and the company of their own.

Thanks for sharing that!