The Colson discussion brings up some favorite verses I've written about before, but not here. This is long but they do go together.
Basically, I had a very narrow view of what truth is and these verses changed my mind and heart.
Isaiah 58:6-7 true fasting The Lord is speaking here:
Is this not the fast which I choose,
James 1:26-27: true worship The Greek word that is translated here as "religion" really means corporate worship. The word is only used four times in the New Testament - three of them are here. The fourth is in Colossians 2:18 where Paul talks about the worship of angels. So read James like this:
If anyone thinks himself to be worshipful,
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 true communion When Paul wrote this, communion was an actual meal - they called it a love feast. So it's no wonder he admonishes the believers of his day for pigging out:
Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper,
Job 29-31 true righteousness Reeling from the attacks of his smug and holy friends, Job defends his righteousness from chapters 26-31. The last three of these, he tells how his heart was always with the needy. A sample (Job 31:16-23):
If I have kept the poor from their desire,
True fasting is lifting up the poor and oppressed.
True worship is loving widows and orphans.
True communion is feeding the hungry and homeless.
True righteousness is meeting the needs of everyone around you.
Tozier says. "God is not as concerned about our happiness as He is our holiness". I would go one further and say He's not as concerned about our happiness OR our holiness as He is about wholeness. It's not about our happiness. And when it's our holiness, it looks more like selfishness. When it's His holiness, as these verses define it, you see other people becoming whole. You see His people mending the broken, and partnering with those who have no defender.
We cannot be truly happy or holy unless we are helping bring wholeness to others. It's always outside ourselves.
To get there, we have to acknowledge our own junk. If we consider ourselves too clean, we'll never want to dirty ourselves with meeting needs outside our own. As Mike Mason says, "One thing is sure: if we deny the bizarre and the grotesque in ourselves, we will never accept it in others. To the extent that we shrink from the disorderliness of people, love will scare the daylights out of us."
So we start with our own brokenness, and learn to love beyond our hurts. Until finally we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. These are the truths books can't contain.
At the library, I was reading last month’s Christianity Today. The last page was a commentary by Chuck Colson. He writes:
When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We'd been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called "Draw Me Close to You," which has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed. "Let's sing that again, shall we?" he asked. "No!" I shouted, loudly enough to send heads all around me spinning while my wife, Patty, cringed.
These are the lyrics :
Colson is right to say there are no theological truths being proclaimed in the lyrics. But the chorus itself, singing a declaration to the Lord, is a theological truth, the living truth of a living relationship between the singer and his Lord. God's good news is about relationship, not religion. And postmodern chorus-singing believers help us live that out, despite what modern hymn-huggers may think of them.
Seems the old crowd needs a written postmodern theology in order to understand but as soon as you get one down on paper, you’ve missed the point. The song itself is exegetical, parsing the heart; and the gathering of saints is itself an act of proclaiming truth. I get more out of closing my eyes and singing to Jesus than I ever did parsing Greek verbs (sorry).
There's a time to put away books and have God melt our hearts. Book truths are linear, and they keep theology abstract. But THE truth, eternal truth that will outlast libraries and schools, is personal – very, very personal – a person, in fact. And that truth brings theology close, pouring it into my life, making it inseparable from how I live. Paul calls that being a living letter.
Even Ravi Zacharias, our scholar of scholars, esteems living truth over paper truth. He tells the story on radio of coming home to see his two-year-old daughter standing there looking at him. They lock eyes and smile, and she runs to hug him. He’s floored. He says there was more truth in that silent moment than in all the theological books he had ever read or studied on the meaning of love.
It's the same with God. We can proclaim all we know about Him but the power is in knowing Him. I suggest Dr. Colson (or you) put the same song (or similar) on repeat. Keep playing it and singing it until you forget to count the lines, until the words become your genuine prayer. Then you won't just be acknowledging truth, you'll be in it. Connecting. And you'll learn from the poets what theologians can't explain.
Not that they won't try...