“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called ‘the intolerable compliment’.” –C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain
As I read Jesus’ words this morning in John 17, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you…And glory has come to me through them [Jesus’ disciples]” (17:1, 10), they brought to mind the quote from C.S. Lewis about God’s “intolerable compliment” and our own status as His work of art. What does it mean for Jesus the Son to glorify God the father and vice-versa? What does it mean for you and me, mere mortals, to glorify Jesus and to bear “the weight of glory” that Lewis so brilliantly describes in his essay of the same name?
Jesus answers the question in 17:4 in his prayer to the Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus completed God’s purpose by his life, death and resurrection for you and me, fulfilling the Father’s purpose. For you and me, the weight of that glory is reflected in our lives by the character or quality of Christ-likeness that we receive as we trust and obey, just as Jesus did. Following Jesus, this intolerable compliment will involve much struggle and pain and sacrifice.
It’s in that light that I reflect on the article I wrote last week “How can two walk together?” The post generated many responses to our International Weekly—including the Podcast “Anglican Identity, Unity and Leadership” that I did with Bishop Julian Dobbs of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word. You see, our Communion of Anglican Churches worldwide is lacking a certain character that God wants for all Anglicans. That character includes a willingness to not compromise with the world but to stand up for the clarity and authority of God’s word, the Bible, and to take decisive action against both the “gospel deficit” (false teaching) and the “ecclesial deficit” (lack of consequences/discipline). The Cairo Covenant, which we have been “exegeting” in our weekly video series goes a long way towards recovering the character God wants our Communion to have, but it will take struggle, pain and sacrifice for leaders in both Gafcon and the Global South to work together to that end. Do they have the will and the heart to do so under Christ’s gracious leading? I’m sure we will have more to say about this next week in our International Update.
In the light of “God’s intolerable compliment,” I’m enclosing two articles I received in response to our last Domestic Update, released on January 22, which included the following post about the temptation of online pornography and its effects on the Church and her leadership: “Help from the inside out”. We posed the question (as we do in all our Clergy Leadership Institutes), “How can we keep our hearts so full of Christ and his life that we accept no other substitute?”
Two articles have addressed that question, and they follow up with specific resources to help overcome the temptation of on-line pornography. Both are personal friends and clergy within the ACNA, and I commend them to you. The Rev. Mike Flynn of FreshWind Ministries shares his own personal struggle and the spiritual tools we can use to overcome temptation [Healing from Addiction to Pornography – Rev. Mike Flynn (PDF)]. The Rev. Marty O’Rourke, Rector of Church of the Messiah, Chesapeake VA, has produced a wonderful video series called “Guard your Heart”, which has been endorsed by Bishop John Guernsey and others for use within the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.
Remember John 17:10. It speaks of the glory we can bring to Jesus as His work of art: “Glory has come to me [Jesus] through them.” In his great commentary on this passage, Bruce Milne observes:
“Bringing glory to Christ as his disciples is rooted in our trust in him as Saviour, which vindicates his work and in that sense honours him. There is no suggestion here, however, that our glorifying him is confined to our trust. What a marvelous incentive to living for Christ this is, that he who has need of nothing may yet be glorified through our obedience and service.” (Stott, JRW, ed. The Message of John: The Bible Speaks Today, at 244.)
Wouldn’t it be glorious to put a smile on our Savior’s face by our obedience today—personally, and as a Communion of Anglicans worldwide?
Yours in Christ,
+ Canon Phil Ashey