C.S. Lewis once wrote, “‘What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of him, it is entirely a question of what he intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.” (From God in the Dock)
Sometimes we Christians make a grievous error thinking we have a say in our salvation. Even worse, we occasionally think we have a say in someone else’s salvation. Other times we know better but still act like we’re the ones with the sway.
“God opens our eyes, we see.”
I know I’m treading into hot waters here, but even in the Calvinist/Wesleyan debate, there is common ground. That ground is God’s call upon our lives. Jesus calls, we react. God opens our eyes, we see. The winds of the Holy Spirit blow, we bend.
John Wesley explained this holy phenomenon with the term, “prevenient grace.” In other words, we can’t choose to follow Christ unless he first gives us permission to know him—grace to open our mind to his call—ears to hear his beckoning voice. God is the proactive one. We are merely the responders.
We humans don’t really like that arrangement. We like to have absolute power—especially we Americans. We are independent and free. We are in control of our own destiny (or so we like to think).
“Try to box him up and you’ll fail miserably every time.”
Even we in the church attempt to make what we want out of Jesus. For some he’s the Gentle Lamb. For others, he’s the Warrior King leading us to ultimate victory. In reality, he is who he is. Remember Exodus? “I AM who I AM!” Try to box him up and you’ll fail miserably every time.
In Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the Christ-figure is a lion named Aslan. When asked about him, one of the characters exclaimed, “He’s no tame lion!” Lewis was right. When we try to tame him, make him what we want him to be, we are committing downright heresy. He is who he is.
“The Holy Spirit grabbed me by the throat.”
I had a friend in seminary who once said (when asked why she was there), “The Holy Spirit grabbed me by the throat.” I never forgot that description. I think it’s reasonably expressive of many of our faith journeys. Sometimes we come kicking and screaming.
I have another friend, a layman, who’s a good preacher in his own right. A visiting missionary once told him he ought to become a pastor. My friend related that he just didn’t have that call on his life. The missionary then knowingly answered, “Yes. If you can do anything else and be happy, do it.” These are definite words of wisdom. It’s God’s story, not ours.
Oh, to be sure, we have a part to play. We have the privilege of being a portion of what God is doing in this world. It’s when we take undue credit for the fruit of our labors that we get far afield.
Accept God’s story, and relish the fact that you have a role to perform.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]