There’s a lot to be said for “sell[ing] all that thou hast, and giv[ing] it to the poor” (Matthew 19:21) to follow Jesus. A simple beauty to minimalism that much of modern society overlooks or rejects. I believe however, that we can achieve that simplicity and focus through inward discipline and gratitude and by cultivating a giving spirit. Being willing to obey God in the tiniest detail and live that out as our “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Luther was abjectly against living the ascetic life and shutting ourselves off from the rest of society. I see what he’s saying. Personally, I think the difficulty of interpersonal relationships far outstrips the hardship of living like a monk in a monastery. Consequently, the beauty, the aesthetic of society is yours to partake of. And there is beauty in the city. This being said, if God has truly called you to give up everything to serve Him alone, more power to you.
How do you show affection? I suppose that’s between you and those to whom you’re affectionate. As long as you do show it, that’s all Paul asks. “The love which ye have to all the saints.” (Colossians 1:4). And not just Christians: “Follow peace with all men…” and women. (Hebrews 12:14). Really, it’s a command of Jesus: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) There are several synonyms that would work: compassion, kindness, caring, empathy. But the antonym—that which you want to watch out for—is just two letters removed: Affectation. Affectation pretends. Affectation acts like it cares, acts like it is selfless and has the best interests of the other person at heart but nothing could be further from the truth. Be affectionate. Not affectationate. Wait, that’s not right. Affectatious? That sounds better, but it doesn’t make it any more authentic.
I used to have a problem with those two words. No, I always knew what they meant, it was the truthful living-out that I couldn’t fake.
Each of us is living something out. Call it a life. But it better end up being so much more than that. Yes we’re here to learn and to love and to listen. And if in our story we don’t invite God to translate and to tell it as He wants, then the anecdotes that we accrue won’t end up making the road down which we came any easier for those following. Do you follow me? You may or may not know this, but there are people out there in the world who are going through the same exact thing that you are. One of the main reasons that we go through difficulties is to help others along. If you let God teach you through the trials, then the anecdotes will become antidotes, preventing others from making the same mistakes that you did. Or me.
Here’s a scary thought: “Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.” (Psalm 44:14) Our story, our anecdotes–those little snippets that illustrate life’s inherent lessons–will be proclaimed one day. “That which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” (Luke 12:3) says Jesus. When we don’t “follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3), then our testimony (really, the lack thereof) will end up having the opposite effect in the world. Jesus didn’t die and rise for us to be ridiculed for not following Him, in spite of professing His name.
As an aside, I had a book as a kid called “Baseball Anecdotes”. I loved it. If anything, just for the illustrated cover featuring caricatured pictures of famous baseball figures from different eras, all seated in the same dugout. I learned early on the difference between the two words as antidote is heard more often, though it’s something completely different, as my dad politely informed me.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) Like a suit? A uniform. That is what Paul is referring to. He also talks about putting on the “armor of light” in Romans (13:12). Peter even goes one further, speaking to women (he was married, Paul wasn’t), calling it “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Peter 3:4). He speaks of inward things as being what we see on the outside. Interesting. All of these references and many more speak of Jesus in sartorial terms, as clothing to be worn. Don’t fret though, your fashion and fashion statements can be all your own, I’m not gonna tell you what to wear. Just make sure you put on Christ–and maybe a smile–before you go out.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned (illiterate, the Greek connotation) and ignorant (same Greek root as idiot) men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Notice who stood out: Jesus. They were His disciples, sure, but Jesus was the one who got noticed.
Could we say that they were simply uninformed? That’s certainly more polite than how the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jerusalem perceived them. Just because someone doesn’t know the fine points of the Mosaic law and can’t quote chapter and verse doesn’t mean they don’t know Jesus. Notice what Paul says was important to him: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, emphasis mine) I believe that the first thing people see in Christians who are living in love with Jesus, though they may not realize it, is Him. Try that on.