"May we no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness and schemes of those who lie in wait to deceive us, but, speaking the truth in love, may we grow up into Christ, through whom the people of God grow well together as they are knitted together in love". Ephesians 4:14.
Yesterday, I visited a favorite location on the moors for a little r&r. After a refreshing dip in the river, I was meandering along the bank when I came something which sent shivers up my spine. Just into the flow of the river itself, someone had deliberately smashed and left a glass beer bottle, its jagged, dangerous pieces spiking up amidst the shallow stones close to the shore. Carefully, gingerly, I painstakingly removed each piece of the object from the surrounding sand, collecting them into a bag and taking them home to be safely deposited into my refuse.
What shocked me was the utter wickedness of this act. The place is often visited by youngsters and walkers with dogs, especially over the summer, and someone who hadn't had been so fortunate as to just be ambling could have easily been caught in the diabolical malice of this.
I found myself thinking about how so easily we can become victims of things which are equally as dangerous.
Paul's words in Ephesians remind us that, outside of clearly growing in the life and faith given in Christ, there are numerous teachings and teachers waiting to trap us in such malicious snares.
The ones which so easily bruise us, of course, are those regarding ourselves. We can so easily become focused upon the wrong things (our actions, choices, and the like) thinking that these make us 'right' instead of Christ.
As Robert Farrar Capon so helpfully puts it:
“Trust him. And when you have done that, you are living the life of grace. No matter what happens to you in the course of that trusting - no matter how many waverings you may have, no matter how many suspicions that you have bought a poke with no pig in it, no matter how much heaviness and sadness your lapses, vices, indispositions, and bratty whining may cause you - you believe simply that Somebody Else, by his death and resurrection, has made it all right, and you just say thank you and shut up. The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn't going to flunk you because your faith isn't so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead - and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.” (Between Noon & Three - Romance, the Law and the Outrage of Grace).
Notice how Paul gets us to focus on exactly the same source of aid in his counsel. Teaching and teachers of His children only truly help us when they point us to the love (grace) of God in Jesus - that is what begins, nourishes and matures His family, and allows us to truly engage with life and the world in a manner which sees the dangers and counters them well. It is in His death and resurrection that we are bought and made free, and that is what makes all the difference, so the next time you're tempted to begin looking towards your own record of achievement or program for progress, remind yourself of what truly counts - what God has done in Christ alone. Share that with your soul, with your fellow travelers, and with the world at large, and you'll truly be putting your life in good order.