Monday, February 18, 2008

Thoughts on Perpetuating the Gospel to Others

"We live not unto ourselves; we affect other people."

Edith Schaeffer

I came across this statement from Edith Schaeffer this morning , and have not been able to shake it. This is a simple statement, but one that rocks me to the bone. One that frightens me in light of the "otherness" of those that I come in contact with, whether it be daily, or just once in my lifetime. I should consider this statment as a wife, as a mom, as a friend, as a daughter, sister, citizen, and even as a stranger - and altogether as a Christian woman.

Surely we are not made to be all alone, to live unto ourselves. We are human. We are made for community. And what we do is going to have a direct relationship with those who are sharing that community with us. With this in mind, I am challenged to live truth. If I'm going to be living with others and others are going to be affected by my thoughts, words, and deeds, then I need to be thoughtful about what I'm passing on. In what ways are my actions affecting others?

This challenges me to live truth in order to perpetuate truth to those that I entangle my life with. In one enormous area of application is a way of the parent with the child. Am I passing onto my son a fasle gospel? Am I living out the truth before him? Or am I passing on to him a way of idolatry? Am I handing him the baton of faith and love, or am I handing him the baton of autonomy? Ultimately, the question comes down to this: am I following Jesus' example in giving my life away to others? A life of sacrifice, humility, giving and nurturing? or am I living "any damn way I choose." Which way is going to be liberating and life giving? Which lifestyle will he grow to love? How will "living any damn way I choose" affect the relationship between husband and wife, parent and child, or between friends?

And why do we listen to a cultural lie that says living "any damn way we choose" is our right in becoming original, and the individuality we achieve for living for ourselves has become more valuable than stepping outside of ourselves and loving our neighbors - seeing the world from anothers' perspective, walking around in someone else's shoes? This is much more interesting than always camping out in your own skin. In living for yourself alone all you get to experience is yourself, and chances are, if you are living this way, you know more than anyone how lonely you are, and how vile and wicked you are. You are lying to yourself if you think that your individuality and right to originality is more valuable than investing in the lives of others, and you are certainly deceived if you think that living for yourself is more interesting and fulfilling.

It is profound to really stop and think about how we are affecting the lives of others. It's an inevitable, inescapable truth to know that the things we say or don't say, the ways we serve or don't serve, the ways we love or choose not to love, etc, are going to have some kind of significance, even if it may be as slight as a kind gesture to the grocer or a drink of water for a child. We cannot live in such a way as to think that our lives have no impact, make no influence.To believe that you can live any way you choose with no regards or altering of others, is really an impossible persuit.

As a parent you are inherently going to have an impact on a scale unimaginable: just consider the impact a life of mercy, compassion and love has, it's not hard to imagine the life that comes from this. but think about the what's spilling forth from a life lived in sole selfishness? This is a perpetuation of autonomony, loneliness and death. It's not hard to imagine the kind of relationship that will occur between a husband and father who chooses to live a life with no regards to his wife and children. If we want to perpetuate and cultivate truth goodness and beauty, and to live the way Christ has called us, we are called to consider how our daily habits are affecting those that we love, and we are called to love all peoples, not just those we share our breakfast table with.

It is a good thing to consider the otherness of others. To consider the personality, the wonder, of being someone else, to try to walk around in their shoes, apart from your own self altogether. It's a good thing to meditate on ways we can pass on a life of beauty in all of our relationships. I am challenged today with these thoughts. For me, today, I know I can start in my home, with my husband and with my son. But I hope that I can also perpetuate this kind of living with strangers and with the needy. And maybe somewhere, somehow along the road the Rumreys will be entertaining angels unaware.


Jonathan said...

I like this quote. I have a strange feeling that the way we respond to everyone around is is much greater than we know. Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass talks about character being all of a person's experiences from a mom at home to the influence of a primary school teacher. I guess parenting may be the greatest gift of otherness that we get to give.

BJ said...

Wow! Very well put...and very thought provoking for me too. Thanks for that encouragement! Pouring oneself out for others is not a popular idea...even within mainstream Christianity...but instead the pursuit of individuality. I think the sad condition of many of our churches reflects this.

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