Wednesday, November 20, 2013

God is like mustard - 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.
"The mode of His love and His instruction we have shown as we could. Wherefore He Himself, declaring Himself very beautifully, likened Himself to a grain of mustard-seed; and pointed out the spirituality of the word that is sown, and the productiveness of its nature, and the magnificence and conspicuousness of the power of the word; and besides, intimated that the pungency and the purifying virtue of punishment are profitable on account of its sharpness. By the little grain, as it is figuratively called, He bestows salvation on all humanity abundantly." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Clement saw God everywhere, even in the small and insignificant mustard seed. Mustard has a unique pungent quality that is hard to describe as being anything other than "mustard." Clement likens this pungency to God's discipline and punishment in that, though they contain sharpness, they are also purifying. It is the pungent, or sharpness, of God's punishment that serves to purify our souls of sin and wickedness.
"Honey, being very sweet, generates bile, as goodness begets contempt, which is the cause of sinning. But mustard lessens bile, that is, anger, and stops inflammation, that is, pride. From which Word springs the true health of the soul, and its eternal happy temperament." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Honey stands in contrast to mustard in that it is sweet and contains no sharpness in its taste. Sometimes, the sweetness of God can cause us to take God for granted; We take for granted His goodness, forgiveness, and forbearance. Sometimes, in taking God for granted, we can become contemptuous of His commands and instruction in our lives and to cease fearing sin as we aught. At times like these we need the sharpness of God to awaken our souls and to restore us to what we know to be true; to return once again to God and to His ways.
"Accordingly, of old He instructed by Moses, and then by the prophets. Moses, too, was a prophet. For the law is the training of refractory children... And when, having senselessly filled themselves, they senselessly played; on that account the law was given them, and terror ensued for the prevention of transgressions and for the promotion of right actions, securing attention, and so winning to obedience to the true Instructor, being one and the same Word, and reducing to conformity with the urgent demands of the law." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Clement takes a much more moderate view of the Old Testament law then may today. The people had found favor and deliverance with God. However, in their new found freedom, they through off all restraint and the fear of God and behaved as they pleased. In response, God gave His Law to arrest their impulses and to restore the fear of God in their lives that they might learn to live good and godly lives. The law as as mustard to their licentiousness.
"For Paul says that it was given to be a 'schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.' So that from this it is clear, that one alone, true, good, just, in the image and likeness of the Father, His Son Jesus, the Word of God, is our Instructor; to whom God hath entrusted us, as an affectionate father commits his children to a worthy tutor, expressly charging us, 'This is my beloved Son: hear Him.' The divine Instructor is trustworthy, adorned as He is with three of the fairest ornament—knowledge, benevolence, and authority of utterance;—with knowledge, for He is the paternal wisdom... with authority of utterance, for He is God and Creator:.. and with benevolence, for He alone gave Himself a sacrifice for us... Now, benevolence is nothing but wishing to do good to one’s neighbour for his sake." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
The law became our tutor to lead us to Christ. By showing us how we aught to live, and by realizing that we are incapable of being good by ourselves, it leads us to Christ who alone is good and who alone can help us to live a good and holy life. Now, having come to Christ, He Himself has become our instructor, leading us in the right way, and it is right that we should choose Him to instruct our lives because He possesses knowledge, authority, and benevolence. There are many who claim to be enlightened and many who would seek to be our instructors, but no other has the knowledge and wisdom of God, no other has the authority of being God, and no other has shown the love and desire for good in our lives like Jesus who came and died for us that we might live eternally with Him. He is our loving instructor,

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment