Tonight I want us to forget the “quality” question. Just ditch it. It’s not going anywhere, so we have plenty of time to discuss it. I want to look at what’s in you instead.
Please don’t notice me saying this here. I’m not what’s important here, and that should go without saying, but I’m afraid it often doesn’t (and it hasn’t this time now either). If you want to look at me, look at my words. Those aren’t me either, but they should tell you all you need to know. Actions speak, as Ted Haggard and Mike Jones can tell you. Both men claim Christianity, and Mike Jones may very well be a Christian, but neither have been very good Christ-followers of late. I’m not pointing fingers; my sins stand equally damning and I don’t deny my own shortcomings. But this isn’t about me, or even Ted or Mike. This is about you, and more specifically, who’s in you.
When the hypocrites questioned Jesus, he told them to look at his actions. “Don’t look at me,” he said. “Look at my actions. Look at who’s working through me. That’s proof of who I am. That’s what makes me who I am. Don’t see me; see through me.”
The famous artist Paul Klee said we have to learn to look past the surface to get to the root of things. His paintings used multiple symbols that evoked visceral, sometimes primal responses in their simple suggestion. When an artist does his job, no one sees him.
As Sol Stein says, the work of editing is to remove the author so completely that the work can connect directly with the reader. If you do your job, you’ll become invisible. Your voice is there, but it’s not obtrusive. You want to slip behind the curtain, become irrelevant.
God’s work in our lives makes us subservient. It isn’t for our own benefit; it’s for others. For the ultimate end of serving God and bringing him glory, we are bought, redeemed, transformed, and then murdered. That’s right. Poured out, emptied of any personal identity.
Yes, all of this is leading somewhere.
But please don’t hear this as my message. Look past. I can’t say what I’m trying to say if you see me, praise me, call my attention away and undermine my aim. My goal is humility, but your attention could undo me. I graciously deflect, thank, but escape before pride tempts me into duplicity.
This is a difference between Christian and Christ-follower (maybe not THE difference, but certainly a big difference): that so much about “Christianity” has become agenda-driven, self-focused, and forceful. Yet so much about following Christ is about losing all personal agenda, being last, giving up our very lives. Christians may aim to seek God and his agenda, but the connotations, associations and misappropriations seem to twist the word into a separate identity somehow. As a Christ-follower, there is less confusion.
Whether or not the word Christian has become irreversibly corrupted, the relevance for us as writers should be obvious. Rather than focusing on our agenda, our own hopes for a better world, better nation, better industry, we need to forget our own ambitions and stop trying to take matters into our own hands (whether we say it’s for God or not). In our lives as in our words, our strength is in weakness. Our power is in the absence of force. Meek and humble. Lest any of us should boast.
You have the opportunity to direct people’s attention. You write and use words to create meaning and draw attention toward particular thoughts. What are you drawing people’s minds and hearts toward? Are you a candy bar or a compass? Are people bettered by your words?
Are you a Christian or a Christ-follower? Is it about you and your words, or is it about the Word you are following?