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Beyond reason

Sunday, February 20, 2005

2 Timothy 1:8-10
Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord ... but join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

No, Jesus was not just a good man. No, the Bible is not simply a textbook for ethical living. And no, the mark of being a Christian has nearly nothing to do with how I act after becoming one. Paul pleads with his disciple Timothy to preach the vast, life-changing truth of Jesus' immortality and his love for us that preceded time.

Of course this message is difficult to speak. Neither Paul nor Timothy were anywhere to be found at the dawn of the world. Nevertheless Paul says unequivocally that Jesus was an agent of creation. He knows this through his "appearing".

I get the idea from passages in Acts about Paul's early days as a Christ-follower that he experienced intense communion with the risen Jesus. After those early years Paul never spoke tentatively about what he knew.

Not only is he certain of Jesus' immortality; he is also convinced of our own. Christ has conquered death, so God can remove the guardian angels from the gates of Eden. No more flaming sword, no more need to protect us from the tree of life. Jesus invites us to eat. He is truth. He is life. We are expected to eat. As we partake of "his body and blood" we receive life that lasts forever.

St. John Chrysostom, fourth-century Archbishop of Constantinople (Istanbul), wrote in his commentary on this passage, "There is nothing worse than that man should measure and judge of divine things by human reasonings." He likened the result to looking at the sun with bare eyes and achieving only blindness.*

Before his conversion Paul found the claims of Jesus' disciples outrageous, irrational and offensive. But after his own encounter with Jesus, during which he was blinded for three days, he put his reasoning on the shelf, opened his mind and simply asked God to fill it. He asks the same of Timothy, and of us.

Holy Spirit, empty me of ego and false knowledge, and fill me with the stuff of grace, peace and eternal life.


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