Giving out of fear is
July 18, 2007
"Did I tell you how much I liked your sermon on Sunday?" asked Father Tim's
"You did not, or I would have remembered it," countered the rector.
"Well, it was glorious. You were very bold, I thought, to preach on sin. Hardly anyone wants to hear sin preached."
"Mainstream Christianity glosses over the fact that it isn't just a question of giving up sin, but of doing something far more difficult—giving up our right to ourselves....''
"Through sacrifice and obedience."
She smiled ironically. "How do you think that will be received by those of us who come to sit in a comfortable pew, and find a hot seat instead?"
So went a conversation between the rector of the local Presbyterian, Father Tim Cavanaugh, and Cynthia, his next-door neighbor, near the end of Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford book to which I referred last week. Though I usually don't like to do two somewhat serious columns in a row, I didn't really want to return this book to the library and let that little bit of wisdom get away—which it would, if I didn't commit it to paper immediately.
The whole idea sounds kind of counter-cultural, doesn't it? Rather foreign in an egocentric world. This is not to suggest that altruism and Christianity necessarily or always equate, and I would probably go so far as to say selflessness, in a philanthropic sense, is, in a backhanded sort of way, sometimes—bottom-line—selfish. We've all seen it, heard about it, maybe even done it: the gotta get to heaven somehow kind of giving. That's backwards, really. A giving so instead of giving because. Does that make sense? A giving out of fear instead of a giving out of thankfulness.
But, as in the story of Jim Elliot, being willing to give what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose—that is the secret—real sacrifice and obedience.