I asked the Good Thief…
February 4, 2012
The City
February 9, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

As in all things, I greet with you love and grace according the wondrous will of the most holy God. Amen.

I confess to you, my beloved, how wayward I have been these months. But in my fault and weakness, there was the opportunity for strength; that when I was weak, you were strong, and sustained me. I have endured much, and not by my own account, but as God’s will set forth, and for that I am grateful.

Truly you know how easy it is to boast of this strength? I, too, have culled the pride of boasting, but what is there in that? Have we not all heard Brother Paul? For just as he, far greater than I, was a sinner saved to be a disciple, so too are each of us. It was Paul, the sinner-saint, who told us that there is no cause for boasting.

For what would we boast? That the occasion of weakness in another made us strong? No. Strength of spirit, strength of mind, strength of body do not come from us or by us but according to the One who made us. If I am weak so that others may lift me up, it is not to them I should be thankful. For God works through them as it pleases his will. So it is when I uplift another—I would be foolish to boast in my service, for it is not a service I knew except that God had showed it to me and given me the strength to live it.

And so, there is no cause for boasting—as Paul has said. But why do we continue? Do you applaud yourself so much that you are set upon your own dais? Do you crown yourself with a diadem because you have saved another? What then? I tell you now: the love which emanates from those in awe  is not a love at all, but an ignorant admiration. It, too, fades.

But in Christ, it is different. What is such admiration to him, but child’s play? There is no satisfaction there. But more so, it is utterly false: for we take the throne of praise for acts which we did not do. There is nothing in us that can do good without the power of God. For our gifts he fashioned; our love is of his cloth; our spirits stirred according to his will. Do not be foolish, then. Be as you are: sinners in the service of God, delighted that such love abounds as to embrace us fully, even as we are weak, even as we are foolishly strong. Whatever our giftedness, we have no claim upon it.

I say these things to you, brothers and sisters, not because I have seen you boasting, dismissing the work of the Lord. Rather, I say it because I have done these things and continue to do these things, fearing that you may  also do them. They are my thorns, and my stumbling block; be wise to see that you, too, may stumble as I have. Follow, then, the path of God, and in a constant faith, you will be satisfied in God and God alone. For there is nothing in ourselves that we make whole, or that is truly satisfactory.

What’s more, beloved, I urge you as I urge myself to release the demons which tell us what we ought to do and what is prohibited. Did not Paul himself say all are saved, apart from the law? Do not give another injunction so easily, then, for you do not know their heart. But God knows all, and God loves all, and will guide all as is necessary. Moreover, concern yourselves not with the salvation of self but the uplifting of others. Was that not the work of Christ among us?

I must leave you again, my brothers and sisters, but be sure of spirit and steadfast in faith. I will write again soon, and as the spirit moves me. Until then, I meditate on the workings of the Lord, ever vigilant in opening my heart to the revealing of his will.

Pray to the Lord often, beloved, for he loves you constantly and his words are etched upon your hearts. As his servant, I, too, love you, and remain forever yours in Christ,

Jeff

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