December 05, 2019 by Jesse Lebus
The Perfect Person's Rule of Life:
The perfect person does not only try to avoid evil. Nor do they do good for fear of punishment, still less in order to qualify for the hope of a promised reward. The perfect person does good through love.
Clement of Alexandria
Greetings St. Luke’s, friends and family,
As this coming Sunday - the second in Advent - draws to a close, you may find yourself wondering if we’ll ever get to Bethlehem. Advent is about being aware of and preparing for Christ’s arrival, but by the end of this week’s gospel we’ll have heard nothing about angelic messengers, virgin births, stars or mangers.
Instead we’ve had warnings, rather fearful warnings. Last week, in Matthew, Jesus tells us that when the Son of Man returns on clouds descending that only some will be gathered to Him and some will be left behind. Yikes. This week, in shouting at the Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist warns us: “every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Gulp.
Capitalizing on fearful language found in scripture is a powerful evangelical technique. For centuries its kept the pews full and the preachers fat. For a couple of years now, I have been preaching a message against fear-based faith by offering an alternative: we aren’t called to live righteously because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t, we live righteously because we are hopeful of what will happen if we do.
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215), a Christian theologian and philosopher, takes it a step further. Faithful living, doing good, renouncing evil and simple living are worthwhile for neither fear nor hope of anything, but for love’s sake alone. Clement continues:
[Those who follow this rule] are not motivated by desire for personal benefit, so they do not have personal advantage as their aim. But as soon as they have realized the beauty of doing good, they do it with all their energies and in all that they do.
They are not interested in fame, or a good reputation, or a human or divine reward.
The rule of life for a perfect person is to be in the image and likeness of God.
God is love and this love has been made known in Jesus Christ. In the season of Advent we joyfully await the celebration marking Christ’s arrival into this world, we anticipate with hope his arrival at the end of the age, and we prepare for his arrival in our lives and hearts by doing good through love for love’s sake.
Yours, in Christ,