Life in Christ is a full-orbed personal existence woven around three foci: hearing, tasting, and feeling. This life is a participation in the life of the triune God we worship and in whose image we have been created. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live a life of unbroken communication, communion, and community. Participating in this life, then, means sharing in these three C’s.
“In the beginning was the Word” (Jn.1:1). God’s speech is our primordial reality. By it God called the world into being and sustains it in being. By it God makes himself known. By it God summons the response which makes us persons. By it God orders and directs our life as his people. By it God judges the world. By it God summons us to life in his new creation.
Human life is one of response to God’s Word. The ear is the organ of birth and rebirth. The organ of growth. Hearing had an original unity with heeding, a reality signified by the important Hebrew word shamah which means both. This unity was broken by the fall but restored in Christ.
Life in Christ is nurtured by the unending utterance of this Word that shapes and orders our lives. C. S. Lewis offers a lovely image for in his Narnia story The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. At the end of the story Aslan, the great lion and Christ-figure, is ready to send Lucy and Edmund back to their world. He tells them their time in Narnia is at an end and they will have to learn to know and love him by the name he bears in their world (that is, of course, Jesus).
"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?
"I shall be telling you all the time," said Aslan. "But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder. And now come; I will open the door in the sky and send you to your own land."
“I shall be telling you all the time.” The Holy Spirit is tasked with the responsibility of continually pointing us to Jesus and reminding us of his story, the one story that finally and ultimately matters. The Spirit will tell us this story all the time.
Such hearing itself is also a gift of the Creator renewed by the Spirit. In Ps.40:6 David writes “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but you have given me an open ear.” Literally it says “ears you have dug for me.” The hearing that heeds is not ours to do but ours to receive as a gift. Yes, we need to be attentive and open to listening, but both the means and content of our hearing are all of grace!
Hearing and heeding God is a contested matter in our world as it is. Our enemy and the world around us are constantly telling us their stories too seeking our loyalty and/or our dollars. Advertising no longer seeks to inform us about its products but form us by luring us to the images they present and values they represent to nest in our imaginations and shape us into good consumers. Wartime propaganda dehumanizes “the enemy” so as to remove our qualms about killing them. A gross but hugely powerful term from the Nixon tapes describing their misinformation crusade is “mind f***k.” There’s a visceral if disgusting image for this contest for our hearing and heeding for you!
In general four stories are told and retold in endless variations about the what the good life looks like and seek to shape and focus us on them.
- The Sports Illustrated Story: Physical Strength as Power
- The Glamour Story: Beauty as Power
- The Forbes Story: Wealth as Power
- The People Story: Charisma as Power
I don’t need to expound these here. We all know and feel their power, saturated n them as we are in our culture. We need to remind ourselves this struggle is going on and take due diligence to what and how we hear them. “Garbage in, Garbage out,” this old computer adage applies here too!
I owe this illustration to Jen Wilkin, None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different Than Us (Crossway, 2016) adapted at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-portraits-of-power-from-magazine-rack-near-you?utm_source=TGC+List&utm_campaign=a37b65164c-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_621531349f-a37b65164c-118240921