Thursday, September 26, 2013

The conversation of our life - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"As there are these three things in the case of man, habits, actions, and passions; habits are the department appropriated by hortatory discourse the guide to piety, which, like the ship’s keel, is laid beneath for the building up of faith... All actions, again, are the province of preceptive discourse; while persuasive discourse applies itself to heal the passions. It is, however, one and the self-same word which rescues man from the custom of this world in which he has been reared, and trains him up in the one salvation of faith in God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 1)
The conversation of our lives are made up of three things: habits, actions, and passions. Habits are the behaviors that we perform by rote and often without any thought or reason. They are the "defaults" of life and they allow us to move through our day without having to stop and think about every action and decision we face. Habits can be good or bad; one leading to corruption and one to life. Habits are often ingrained in us at an early age and even passed on from one generation to another. Actions are behaviors we choose to do. Actions require a purposeful decision and are the result of the contemplation of our mind. We chose our actions based on our values and goals, which may or may not line up with the values and goals of God. Passions are what we want to do. Passions are the desire of our soul that wage war against our spirit and our reason. Our passions are the source of much of our external conflict and inner turmoil. James, enumerating some of the passions of the soul, says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2) For all these God has sent His healing word to correct, instruct, and heal us that we might grow in all respect unto God.

Jesus came to save sinners, and that salvation begins with our conversion from the world into God's Kingdom. Paul reminds us that, "He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14) However, when we arrive in the Kingdom of God, most of us arrive with a lot of baggage. We come with our present lifestyle, habits, and patterns that are often at odds with the character and nature of God. Fortunately, salvation does not end there. As we continue in Christ, His salvation continues in us to change us and to conform us into the image of Christ. James wrote that we, "were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Peter 1:18-19) Jesus not only came to save us but to redeem us from our futile way of living; to teach us a new way to live. However, this transformation is rarely instantaneous and often takes a life time of effort, discipline, and faith, in God.
"When, then, the heavenly guide, the Word, was inviting men to salvation, the appellation of hortatory was properly applied to Him: his same word was called rousing (the whole from a part). For the whole of piety is hortatory, engendering in the kindred faculty of reason a yearning after true life now and to come. But now, being at once curative and preceptive, following in His own steps, He makes what had been prescribed the subject of persuasion, promising the cure of the passions within us. Let us then designate this Word appropriately by the one name Tutor (or Pædagogue, or Instructor)." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 1)
As there are three parts of our life, so there are three ministries of the Word. Firstly, God addresses our habits with a hortatory word. A hortatory word is one that uses extreme urging and exhortation to bring about change or a significant decision. Clement calls the word "rousing" in that it calls for a response from the whole person, not just a part. It is a word that calls us to make wholesale changes in our lifestyle and our manor of living. It is a word that cannot be responded to half-heatedly, but invoked the whole person. Secondly, God addresses our actions with a perceptive word. A perceptive word appeals to our reason and instructs us how to make right choices. The perceptive word opens up to us an understanding of Jesus' ways that we might become imitators of Him, walking in His footsteps. Where the Hortatory word leads us to piety, the perceptive word teaches us to live a principled life. Finally, God speaks to our passions with a persuasive word. The persuasive word promises us freedom if we continue in God's Word. When we come to Jesus we have already spent our lifetime sowing bad seed into the garden of our heart. Thereafter we learn to sow the good seed of the Kingdom. However, often we find the weeds we had previously sown still growing as we labor to sow good seed. It is easy to be discouraged as we sow good seeds yet reap weeds. The persuasive word encourages us to pull weeds as we sow seed. God said, "So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 51:11 NKJV) Notice it says the "shall" obtain, not they "have" obtained. Sometimes the things we desire lie ahead of us along our journey. The persuasive word sustains us while we wait for what has been promised by God.

Finally, Clement uses the following words interchangeably: Instructor, Tutor, and Pedagogue. A pedagogue was one who escorted children from their homes to their teacher. Their job was to make sure that the children arrived safely to school. This is the same function that the law fulfilled for us, as Paul said, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ." (Galatians 3:24) The law was given to keep us safe and to keep us from killing ourselves and others until we could come to Christ. In the same way, the Instructor is sent to escort us in our journey with God; to teach, train, and protect us as we grow up in Him.

David Robison

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