Monday, 30 November 2009

Dissatisfaction

Christianity is marked by a general sense of dissatisfaction. I think this is found in two key areas. The first is a dissatisfaction with the empire of humanity. Best viewed as a perpetual ziggurat of Babel, the empire of humanity is a constant exploitation of the other through implementations of hierarchy that do nothing other than glorify those at the top. We're all caught up in it, but the Christian message is opposed to it, dissatisfied with the activity as means and as ends.

The second is much less appealing. I don't think Christianity is meant to be satisfying for the Christian, especially if satisfaction implies happiness. A Christian is not called to pursue self-happiness. Instead, a Christian is meant to pursue Christ. For some, that means refreshment from the living water and sustenance from the living bread (very Johannine of me) but that's not the message for all. Some of us already have refreshment, sustenance and comfort. For the rich Christian, Christianity is difficult and demanding. No wonder the rich man went away sad. The gospel account doesn't mention if he became a Christian or not, just that he went away sad.

Even in forgiveness, Christianity isn't satisfying. Without going so far as revenge, even a sense of fairness or justice is denied to Christians. Christ demands forgiveness. Rowan Williams' lectures on prayer during Lent 2009 included the observation that in the Lord's prayer, we ask God to imitate us with regard to forgiveness. God will only forgive us if we forgive others. Christ demands that Christians love their enemies, not demand justice from them for ourselves. We can stand up for justice on behalf of others, but not for ourselves.

The call of Christ is terrifying. It's difficult and onerous. I don't think there's much satisfaction in it.
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