Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wrestling with God

The Hebrew name Israel means struggles with God. The Germans have a word for that too, anfechtung. The children of God will always struggle to remain faithful and steadfast against the temptations of the flesh, the world, the devil. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That which I would do I do not; that which I would not do I find myself doing. Lord, I believe; help me in my unbelief. This struggle is the Christian faith this side of heaven; in the world but not of the world; as we make our pilgrimage through the valley of the shadow of death to the House of the Lord, coming out of the Great Tribulation.

Naively, one may not expect to face such struggle within the Church, though, in reality, it is often the most dangerous and destructive there. Within the Church prey many wolves in sheep's clothing and the devil conceals himself in light speaking peace where there is no peace. The Word of God, and He incarnate, always causes division. He is a two-edged sword, cutting both ways, so that no man encounters the Lord and remains unscathed. He is received in faith unto great blessing or He is rejected in unbelief unto judgment. Thus, there will be, must be, division, struggle, anfechtung, especially within the Church. I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.

In the Lutheran church we have named this struggle, in the many and various ways it is manifested, crux theologica (theology of the cross). It is a habitus, a way of being, living one's life, and working out one's salvation, under the cross. It is nothing less than living in Christ and Christ living in His child - the very image of the Suffering Servant. What are the qualities of the Suffering Servant in relation to flesh, world, and devil?: humility, poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness, meekness, sacrifice, charity, love, mercy, selflessness, etc.

The child of God need not strive to bring the cross upon himself, for it will come quite naturally, assuredly, and without one's choosing. The cross will come and must not be shrugged off, but borne in faith, hope, and love in accordance with the Father's holy will. For, aligned with the Father's will is where we need to be. It is an unfathomable blessing that brings peace that the world cannot give. The temptation is to evade, deny, or appease the struggle, but such is to shrug off one's appointed cross, to fall out of alignment with the Father's will, and to lose the blessing of divine peace. I will not let you go unless You bless me.

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