…is the person we become.
Without hesitation, I need to say that no examples here are meant out of anything but love, and a heavy concern for those who follow the very same Jesus with me. And I have taken many steps to ensure that what I say now is measured against myself, so that I am not found disqualified or arrogant. As a preacher might preface: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O God.
When the post came up on my feed, my immediate reaction was a seriously tongue-in-cheek, “Uh oh.” Part of this was due to the title, because I know that some will always mis-typify well-known Christian leaders. I should have meant what I said, because soon I did mean it. In this post by my cyber-friend Peter, Mr. Kirk is rather explicit about pointing out what came as a huge shock to me: John Calvin, extremely smart theologian and influencer of so many (especially now), was in fact a violent man. The evidence is there, and cited. I can’t argue with it, and you can check it out, openly.
Now I’m not saying Calvin (or any other believer) can ever be perfect, or even that a believer can never commit such a grave sin – though I do admit it difficult to imagine circumstances where this kind of behaviour would be deliberate. But I couldn’t help but think…is this what happens to us when we get so entrenched in our theology that God himself could not cause positive results by speaking any differently to us? Is this what can happen to me, to any of us? Quite possibly.
It should not be a shock to those of us who are more “seasoned” that the God whom we worship influences greatly and in all forms of consciousness the person we become:
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” – Colossians 3:10
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” – Philippians 3:10
But those two verses seem to establish very clearly the need for deliberate action, not passive influence. The truth is that if we are not in some fashion deliberate about Christ personally (not overworking, but still intentional), we stand to not just be “conformed to the world” (that is, naturally less glorious and enjoyable systems, attitudes, actions and beliefs), but to actually be conformed to the confines of our own destructive impulses, instead of the selfless, giving, loving will of God. The fact is that Calvin became this man because he had spent his entire life in Geneva until that point constructing a doctrine, both political and theological, that was to constrain and rule a whole physical location. I do apologize for the challenge this might present, but Calvin’s Geneva is not the Kingdom, and it was not going to be the Kingdom even as written. The Kingdom is Jesus reigning in redemption, freedom, and love – not behaviourist control.
For now, let us leave it at this: just as we ponder God, so we reflect him. What values do you truly believe are born of love? As Paul said, “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8), and do not let any other trust intrude. For God’s character can indeed become the values we exude.