Thursday, October 9, 2008

Integration (#2) — Small & Big

Many people live in their own small worlds. One word used to describe this is provincial. It is an attitude that thinks, “the whole world lives like I do — or at least it should.” In essence it is a self-centeredness that ultimately is rooted in the Fall (the first disobedience that opened the world to evil and the broken mess we all experience).

Self creates a very small world. Since “self” needs to feel secure, to be in control and to live in relative circumstantial comfort, it is typical of (fallen) human nature not to extend itself beyond its own comfort zone. Again, this is another way to understand the nature and extent of sin.

It is a gross understatement to say that God is BIG. Christian Faith believes that God is “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” The scope of that is beyond human comprehension, and because God is Creator He is, of course, far bigger and more complex than His creation. BIG!

The more we are cut off from God, the “smaller” we are. The further we go in the process of a salvation in which we are being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:10), the “bigger” we will become in wisdom and spirit — a magnanimity of soul.

A “small” person takes the one talent given by the Master and buries it in the quest for self-protection; the “big” person extends it, taking the risk but trusting that the One who gives will also share in the care and expansion. It’s the words of Jesus: Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn 12:25). Jesus was not giving a “profound concept” just so people would say “what a deep thinker...” Jesus always speaks into the world we live in and calls us to apply it.

It is true that we start small. We have to begin where we are (and none of us are very big). But in the process (and I cannot get away from that word, for our life in God is a process), we are called to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). And as if such an idea — actually it’s Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians — is too much, the Spirit moves Paul to repeat the phrase a few verses later as he tells how such a thing can happen (through the Church!): until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (4:13).

We are called to something big, and that means seeking to integrate what we know in our own small contexts into the ever-enlarging bigness of what it means to be a Christian: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ (Col 2:9,10). A growing personal faith is a faith that is always seeking to integrate the bigness of God and His ways into the smallness of our own little existence.

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