Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mixed motives; ideals

This morning, I missed my train by about 15 seconds. That is, if the car in front of me had gotten to the intersection 15 seconds earlier, it would not have stopped for the crossing-gate arm (is that what we call "kai-satsu guchi" in Japan, or was that the word for "wicket"?) and I would have boarded the earlier train. Instead, I had a few extra minutes to pick up the paper (hey, my letter to the editor was printed this morning!) and write a few extra paragraphs here.

Today's reading in 2 Corinthians 4 has this great verse, which I have a hard time implementing consistently in my life:
We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4.5)
If you know me and think I'm a helpful and generous guy, you might be surprised by this confession. So yeah, I want to be helpful and generous, I want to serve, I want to give glory to God. But I also want to be liked and respected, I want to be seen as being helpful and generous and spiritual, and so on.

Because I have mixed motives, it's sometimes hard for me to tell why I'm doing any particular thing. It may actually be impossible in the general case, because my motives are probably mixed most if not all of the time.

What can I do about it? Try to follow God, I guess, and ask him to help me to do the right things for the right reasons.

A couple of verses later, Paul gives us the "clay pot" analogy. I think Ray Stedman preached a sermon on this passage titled "Your Pot - His Power" or something like this. The treasure he's talking about here is the light of God shining in our hearts:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4.7-10)
A few days ago I wrote about the idea of rejoicing always, and always abounding in the Lord's work (both are quotes from Paul by the way), etc. How can we combine those ideas with the reality described here? Haven't you felt like this at times -- hard pressed, perplexed, etc.?

So here's a thought. I don't know if it's right, and I hope this doesn't get me excommunicated or burned at the stake or whatever. I think that when Paul says "Rejoice in the Lord always" I think he's giving us something to aim for. By aiming at it, we'll get closer than if we didn't aim at it.

This brings to mind something Jim Fallows said in More Like Us: that in the US we have myths: racial equality, fairness and integrity of the court system, anybody can grow up to become President, this sort of thing. And that because we think these should be true, these are closer to actually being true than they would be otherwise. And maybe these are closer to being true here in the US than they are anywhere in the world.

But unlike American myths, the ideal Paul describes here has a guarantee behind it. From chapter 1:
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1.21-22)
A guarantee from God himself. I like it.

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