Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our own self-sufficiency - 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.
"Besides, He makes preparation for a self-sufficing mode of life, for simplicity, and for girding up our loins, and for free and unimpeded readiness of our journey; in order to the attainment of an eternity of beatitude, teaching each one of us to be his own storehouse. For He says, 'Take no anxious thought for tomorrow,' meaning that the man who has devoted himself to Christ ought to be sufficient to himself, and servant to himself, and moreover lead a life which provides for each day by itself. For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained. War needs great preparation, and luxury craves profusion; but peace and love, simple and quiet sisters, require no arms nor excessive preparation. The Word is their sustenance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
God has provided all we need for our new life in Christ. He has made preparations for the life He now commands us that we might attain to it through those things which He has prepared for us. God is our instructor but He is also our provider. God also intends that we take this new life upon ourselves. This is a life we must live ourselves, others cannot live it for us, nor can we inherit its blessings through the efforts and good order of others. We must find what we need, not through others, but within ourselves, not that we must walk this life by our own means, but from the relationship we individually have within ourselves with God. Each of us is to have our own relationship with God and it is from that individual relationship with God that we are to find our self-sufficiency in the things He requires. Everything we have need of is laid out at our disposal, we need merely to appropriate it through our own individual relationship with God.
"Our superintendence in instruction and discipline is the office of the Word, from whom we learn frugality and humility, and all that pertains to love of truth, love of man, and love of excellence. And so, in a word, being assimilated to God by a participation in moral excellence, we must not retrograde into carelessness and sloth. But labour, and faint not." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Christ, the Word, is our instructor and our progress in the things He instructs is achieved through our participation and obedience in the things He teaches. It is not enough to hear the Word of God, one must fulfill the Word of God for it to have any effect in their life. This participation, this obedience, requires deliberate and continual effort on our part. One cannot drift through life and hope to inherit the beatitudes of the Kingdom. Carelessness, sloth, and fainting are our enemies and only server to draw us back into our old way of living. We must ever be moving forward, ever looking and learning from our Instructor, ever obeying and participating with the loving Word of God.
"And as there is one mode of training for philosophers, another for orators, and another for athletes; so is there a generous disposition, suitable to the choice that is set upon moral loveliness, resulting from the training of Christ. And in the case of those who have been trained according to this influence, their gait in walking, their sitting at table, their food, their sleep, their going to bed, their regimen, and the rest of their mode of life, acquire a superior dignity." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Our training in Christ is not merely for our preparation for eternal life in heaven, but also to teach us how to live happy and fruitful lives here on earth. It teaches us not only how to be citizens of heaven but also citizens here where we live. The Gospel changes the whole man and makes us fit, not only for heaven, but for the purposes of own own nations, states, and communities in which we live. The Word of God civilizes us for useful service to man and country as well as for the brethren and the Kingdom of God. God has left nothing to chance and, as we will see, Clement will show us how the Word of God can be applied to every area of our lives, even, how to walk, how to sleep, our daily habits, etc., that we might life lives with the dignity afforded to us by God.
"For such a training as is pursued by the Word is not overstrained, but is of the right tension. Thus, therefore, the Word has been called also the Saviour, seeing He has found out for men those rational medicines which produce vigour of the senses and salvation; and devotes Himself to watching for the favourable moment, reproving evil, exposing the causes of evil affections, and striking at the roots of irrational lusts, pointing out what we ought to abstain from, and supplying all the antidotes of salvation to those who are diseased. For the greatest and most regal work of God is the salvation of humanity. The sick are vexed at a physician, who gives no advice bearing on their restoration to health. But how shall we not acknowledge the highest gratitude to the divine Instructor, who is not silent, who omits not those threatenings that point towards destruction, but discloses them, and cuts off the impulses that tend to them; and who indoctrinates in those counsels which result in the true way of living? We must confess, therefore, the deepest obligations to Him." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
God is a well balanced teacher, blending instruction with rebuke, direction with correction, praise with punishment, all meant to bring about the true salvation of the soul and to prepare us for life eternal with God. Since He created us He knows best how to lead and instruct us. He knows how we were meant to live and what makes life healthy, blessed, and abundant. He alone is well qualified to be the instructor. So how should we respond to a God who is both gentle and rough, kind and sever, punishing and rewarding? We should respond with the deepest since of love and loyalty knowing that all He does is out of an abiding love for us and a deep desire to have us with Him in heaven throughout all eternity.
"For what else do we say is incumbent on the rational creature—I mean man—than the contemplation of the Divine? I say, too, that it is requisite to contemplate human nature, and to live as the truth directs, and to admire the Instructor and His injunctions, as suitable and harmonious to each other. According to which image also we ought, conforming ourselves to the Instructor, and making the word and our deeds agree, to live a real life." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Some are content to fill their lives with the contemplation of God, however, Clement knows that we must also contemplate human nature; to understand who we are and who we are called to be, to understand our weaknesses and strengths, to recognize our failings and to seize upon our successes. Having contemplated God we must then turn to look at ourselves and to consider how what we have learned about God can and must be applied to our lives; how our knowledge of God impacts our understanding of ourselves and the life we are now called to live. Our knowledge of God aught to compel us into a life long journey to be remade into His image, that we too might reflect that knowledge which we have learned in contemplation of Him who is our greatest good and our highest aim.

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment