Sundays With St. Paul: Do We Still Need Torah?

With my spring semester at George Fox having finished this past week and my “Paul and the Law” class with it, I’ve been thinking a lot about Torah and how much it matters to us in modern day Christianity. Ever since the first few weeks of class, this question has been on my mind: Do we need Torah if we have Christ?

My first inclination is to jump to Romans 13:8-10[1], combine it with Romans 3:31[2], and make the conclusion that those who are in Christ and love as Christ has loved fulfill Torah, which means we would no longer need Torah for our faith in Christ. Yet, I know this cannot be true because 1. Paul either quotes Torah (understood here as a general reference to the Hebrew Bible) or at least references it as a foundation for teaching about Christ and 2. we would not be able to make much sense of Paul without a thorough study of the Hebrew Bible.

Furthermore, if we take 2 Tim. 3:16-17[3] as a reference (at least) to the Hebrew Bible (and if 2 Tim. has Pauline authenticity – or at least his stamp of approval), then it’s clear that Paul wanted those in Christ to utilize the teachings of Torah to build up the church. And even beyond that, there is much to be found within the Hebrew Bible that reveals the character of God (as is implicit within Paul’s letters).

I guess what I’m reacting against is the idea that since Christ has come the “old” way of studying Torah is no longer necessary. It’s an idea that I don’t think was ever taught to me explicitly, but certainly was by implication. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,”[4] is the general understanding behind the implicit idea. Yet does this truly apply to our modern day usage of Torah?

I’m not suggesting we turn back to Judaism, nor do I think Paul is suggesting such a thing (although I don’t think he initially saw a difference between Christianity and Judaism until much later in his life). I just think, after learning the world in which Paul lived and breathed and talked about Jesus, there is still significant value to Torah. And in my experience of 12 years of Christianity, I am finding very little – if any – focus on the Hebrew Scriptures. Until I had taken “Paul and the Law” with Kent Yinger, I feel as though I was missing out on so much within the Hebrew Bible.

In your studies, teaching, or life in general, do you give weight to the Hebrew Scriptures? Do you think there is still significance to the Hebrew Bible in and of itself? What are some of your experiences in coming to Torah with or without the Christ lens? Did you find something good or did you see something lacking?

This is part of a series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Feel free to read it there or read other posts by other bloggers.

 

[1] “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
[2] “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”
[3] “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
[4] 2 Cor. 5:17b, English Standard Version. I do not think Paul is talking about Torah practices in this passage, but I could be wrong.

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On Being a Seminarian: How Far is Too Far?…

This is part of a weekend series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Be sure to check out other posts by other bloggers, especially if you’re interested in biblical studies.

Since I began seminary last fall, I’ve been thrust into a somewhat-constant critical mode where anytime anyone says anything about anything I feel the need to object or play the Devil’s advocate. Not only does this have the great potential of being annoying to the person(s) I’m critiquing, but it also probably isn’t necessary. After all, not everyone is in some form of grad school. Not everyone is taking the same classes I am taking. And, much to my demise, not everyone cares as much as I do.

Ever since I’ve begun thinking critically about my faith, Scripture, and Western culture, I have found that I cannot go back to the way I used think. Once I’ve been made aware of something, I can no longer ignore that something. Where I seem to get into trouble is when I try to bring someone else along to where I am, even though they might not be interested or they might not be ready to evaluate a particular something under critical light (i.e. divinity of Jesus).

I find this is a little related to the balance between faith and scholarship post a few weeks back, but with a slightly different emphasis: being a seminarian amidst non-seminarian crowds. This could be a weekly Bible study or prayer meeting or Sunday morning service or believing coworkers. It could even be, as in my case, online communities.

A verse that comes to mind is Romans 14:1, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”[1] Now I know the context is different (discussing, mostly, food laws), but I think there’s a similarity for when seminarians encounter others who may not be as practiced at critical thinking, may not find the need for critical thinking, or haven’t thought critically about a specific topic. In this case, bringing critical light to something they hold dear might have damaging consequences.

So how do we know when to turn off the ever-constant internal critic? At what point do we find ourselves saying, “Okay, this is too far; pull it back”? Or, if we feel the need to bring that critical light to that particular topic (sometimes needed), how do we go about doing so in a gentle way that doesn’t cause panic? What experiences have you had in bringing critical light to a topic?


[1] By no means am I suggesting that those who have not thought critically are weaker in faith; instead I’m saying that non-seminarians might not think about things as critically.

Sundays With St. Paul: “Uphold the Law” in Romans 3:31…

This is part of a series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Feel free to read it there or read other posts by other bloggers.

For our discussion this week we were instructed to look at Romans 3:31 and discuss what Paul meant by “we uphold the law.” It seems that throughout Romans Paul is anticipating pushback from his Jewish audience about their “chosen-ness.” Romans 3 begins with a question of what the “advantage” of a Jew even is in light of their newfound faith in Christ, which goes to show Paul knew what he was writing would threaten the privileged status of the Jewish community. Sanders and Thielman were our guides in this week’s discussion.

In his discussion of the preceding verses to 3:31, Sanders notes “that the term ‘boasting’ in Rom. 3:27 picks up the same term in 2:17, 23.”[1] In those verses, “boasting” is an “assumption of special status on the part of the Jews.” Discussing the same verses, Thielman says, “Paul criticizes the Jew who relies on and boasts in the law, but the reliance and boast of which he speaks are in the possession of the law, not in its observance.”[2] So, then, Paul seems to have been addressing Jews who felt their privileged status (not by anything they’ve done, but by what they possess) being lessened by “this faith,” as he says in Rom. 3:31.

If Romans 2 is likening the Gentile “law” to the Jewish law – in the sense of practice, rather than knowledge of – and Romans 3 shifts to the “advantage” of a Jew, then it seems Paul is, overall, readjusting the Jewish role in this newfound Christian faith: It isn’t to convert all the Gentiles to Judaism (as is indicated by being so adamantly against circumcision and separation at the dinner table in Galatians), but rather to teach the Gentiles of what it means to “love one’s neighbor.”

Of course, I’m borrowing from Thielman’s discussion:

“If possession of the law gives the Jew no advantage over the Gentile on the day of judgment, as Paul has argued in chapter 2, then what is the value of the Jews’ supposed election? Paul replies that the benefit of being a Jew is great, despite what he has said previously. The reason for this is that the Jews have been entrusted with the ‘oracles of God.’ They possess, in other words, ‘form of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ (2:20) and therefore, as 2:17-20 says, have an advantage over Gentiles in knowing God’s will. Gentiles may possess some intuition of God’s requirements and so have an elementary understanding of the law in themselves, but the Jews’ possession of the law is so great an advantage that they can instruct the Gentiles in the knowledge of God.”[3]

With Paul’s likening of the Gentile to the Jew in 3:29 and his dismissal of “boasting” in 3:27, it then seems that 3:31 is a capstone to his argument for equality between Jew and Gentile; “[upholding] the law” is only possible after equality is established.[4] If Jew and Gentile are equal, then the “advantage” Paul refers to in 3:1, as Thielman explains, then becomes about what they are to do: teach the Gentiles “in the knowledge of God.” It seems to me that Paul redefines the Jewish possession of the law not as a point for a privileged status, but rather for a role of responsibility – to teach the law to the Gentiles who do not have it.

What do you think Paul means in Romans 3:31 in light of what’s discussed here? Is there another part of Romans 3 that you think is crucial for understanding Paul in 3:31?


[1] E.P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Fortress Press, 1983), 33.

[2] Frank Thielman, Paul & the Law: A Contextual Approach, (InterVarsity Press, 1994), 179.

[3] Thielman, 175

[4] I mean “capstone” in the sense of establishing equality; not an end-all to the discussion. Paul continually emphasizes this equality throughout Romans.

Sundays With St. Paul: Nuances of “Law”…

For our discussion groups this week, we were asked to interact with the 16th chapter of Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul.[1] In this chapter, Westerholm discusses five key aspects of Paul’s usage of “law” (“nomos” in Greek[2]): its meaning, and its relation to “works,” faith, legalism, and Torah. Our goal was to utilize these nuances to find what Paul really meant when he used “law” – whether it be something ambiguous or something precise.

Another part of the assignment was to categorize all of Paul’s references to “law” as to what he might have meant by the term (i.e. Pentateuch, Sinaitic Law, OT in general, etc.). Although time-consuming, I found the exercise helpful in seeing how fluid “law” actually is, as Paul uses it. For instance, when Paul says, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good,” in Romans 7:12, he means something else by “law” when he says, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good…” in 7:21.[3]

Westerholm’s discussion of “The Law and Legalism” was the particular part of the chapter I interacted with. Reacting to Cranfield’s claim that “what [Paul] really has in mind may be not the law itself but the misunderstanding and misuse of it for which we have a convenient term,”[4] Westerholm argues “the Greek language… provided, Paul’s vocabulary included, sufficient resources for indicating whether he was speaking of the law as intended by God or in the (allegedly) perverted form in which it was understood by Jews.”[5] Westerholm takes this into his next point: “that no such distinction is intended.”[6]

Overall, this is the part I interacted with the most. Paul’s lack of distinction doesn’t seem to indicate the words didn’t exist; it indicates he didn’t feel the need to separate them. Instead, he treats “law” as a single entity (almost always), but with various aspects that he highlights in order to make different points. It’s as though Paul had a box of crayons: sometimes he refers to the entire box; sometimes he refers to specific colors. We create problems for ourselves when we say that Paul was only talking about one color (i.e. legalism).

Now I know this might oversimplify the issue, but I think it points out how Paul did not seem to care which part of the law he was discussing; what mattered to him was how, in comparison to Christ, it was insufficient. Or as Westerholm puts it, “But – it must be emphasized – in Paul’s argument it is human deeds of any kind that cannot justify.”[7] It didn’t matter if it was the legalism crayon or the “Abraham is our father” crayon; the entire box is insufficient in comparison to Christ.

With that analogy exhausted, I think there might be one counterpoint to Westerholm’s statement about human deeds. In Romans 13:8, Paul says, “Own no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” I might be misunderstanding Paul here, but if what Westerholm says is true, that deeds cannot justify, then what do we make of loving one’s neighbor? And how does Christ play into all of this?

I’m not asking rhetorically; I’m asking because this was the one hang up I had in understanding Paul’s nuanced usage of “law.” If he treats the law as insufficient, which I think is a correct assessment of Romans, then how should we interpret Romans 13:8-10?

What do you think? Does Paul have one cohesive meaning of “law” or is it more ambiguous as I’ve suggested? And how might this alter our understanding of Paul’s Judaism – or the Judaism in Paul’s day?


[1] Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New On Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Eerdmans, 2004), 297-340

[2] I have not studied Greek; this is second-hand information from my professor

[3] Emphasis mine

[4] C. E. B. Cranfield, “St. Paul and the Law,” Scottish Journal of Theology 17 (1964), 55, referring to the terms “legalism,” “legalist,” or “legalistic.”

[5] Westerholm, Perspectives, 331

[6] Westerholm, Perspectives, 331

[7] Westerholm, Perspectives, 333

Sundays With St. Paul: An Introduction to Paul and the Law…

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is titled “Paul and the Law” and deals with precisely those two things: Paul and the Torah (“law,” “teaching,” or “instruction” in Hebrew). After only two weeks of the class, I’ve read so much that I’ve felt the need to write some thoughts down to help process. Thus we arrive to “Sundays With  St. Paul.”

Years ago, over at Near Emmaus, there once was a blog series titled, “Wednesdays With Wright,” which walked through various passages from some of N.T. Wright’s work and simply stirred the pot of discussion within the blogging community (this is slightly over-simplifying their discussions – well worth the read). My goal with this series is essentially the same: to stir the pot of discussion regarding the apostle Paul, his letters, the Torah, and the world from which he arose (although, I must admit I’m a little bummed I don’t have the cool acronym Near Emmaus had. But I do imagine I’ll be dealing with N.T. Wright’s work regarding Paul).

With as much as I would like to give an exhaustive account about Paul, I think I would be overbooking myself given the amount of reading, writing, and research I have this semester. No doubt, such background knowledge is crucial to understanding Paul. But I sense such background information will arise when and where it is needed. Instead, I’d like to share some things I’ve read and discuss the ideas represented within – both in matters pertaining to faith and biblical scholarship (despite what might be said, the two worlds of faith and scholarship are compatible).

To begin, then, I’d like to introduce a few names we’ve read in the past two weeks who have had a significant impact on the study of Paul. Since I’m barely dipping my toes into this particular study, anyone who has read the original works of these scholars is welcome to provide insights, push back, and/or offer clarification where needed. The texts we’ve been reading for class are Stephen Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The ‘Lutheran’ Paul and His Critics and Frank Thielman’s Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach.

Sanders

E.P. Sanders is the first name I’d like to discuss primarily because he focuses on the backdrop to Paul’s world. As Westerholm states, “In comparing Paul with Palestinian Judaism, Sanders examines not individual motifs common to both, but the ‘patterns of religion’ they represent,” (129). Sanders defines these “patterns” as “how getting in and staying in are understood,” (as quoted in Westerholm, 129).

One pattern that Sanders finds within every Judaic witness of this time he describes as “covenantal nomism,” which is “the notion that a Jew’s standing before God is secured by God’s election of Israel as his covenant people […] and that obedience to the law is Israel’s proper response to God’s initial act of grace,” (Westerholm, 129; his emphasis). Another way of talking about this notion is that it wasn’t a “works-based” process wherein devout Jews would earn their standing with God. Rather, obeying the law was an act in “response” to grace already given from God.

We may ask at this point, why did Paul seem so opposed to the law, then? If Sanders’ suggestion is true, then what’s Paul real peeve with the law? As Frank Thielman points out, Sanders thinks Paul’s real issue is that Judaism “is not Christianity,” (Thielman, 36). However, this is where I’d like to introduce another scholar: Krister Stendahl.

Stendahl

In the discussion of what was Paul’s problem with the law, Stendahl thinks it wasn’t an “inner struggle with sin,” but instead the ramifications of trying to uphold the law. Paul seemed more concerned about what sticking to the law might mean for the Gentile believers: “[Paul] wrestled with the problem of Israel’s law, not because his conscience was tormented by a failure to keep its commands, but because it appeared to bar the access of Gentiles to the people of God,” (Westerholm, 147). To understand Stendahl’s stance another way, Paul was speaking more to the Jewish-Gentile separation than to any matter of conscience.

What Stendahl finds when we treat Paul’s struggle with the law as a matter of his own internal conscience is that we make it our own. “Here the (redefined) law is understood as given ‘to make man see his desperate need for a Savior,’” (Westerholm, 148). Once one sees their need for a savior, then they’ve followed the path of Paul and can embrace the grace of Christ. Not only is “the age of the law” rekindled when it shouldn’t be, but it’s rekindled in a way it was never meant to, which, as Stendahl argues, then distorts our understanding of the Mosaic law and especially of how Paul is actually defending the law in Romans 7 (Westerholm, 149).

What I find interesting about Stendahl’s focus is that it hints at what Paul was really concerned with. Yet where Stendahl seems to hint at, another scholar, and the final one I’ll discuss for this post, James D. G. Dunn, hits the nail on the head.

Dunn

According to Frank Thielman’s summary, Dunn agreed “heartily with Sanders […] that the old Protestant picture of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness must be abandoned, and he endorses the description of Judaism as ‘covenantal nomism,’” (41). Yet he takes this a step further and targets the “social function” of the law; that even while it was an indicator of Israel’s unique relationship with God, it was being used “as a racial barrier to exclude Gentiles from entrance into the people of God,” (42). As discussed earlier, Stendahl mentioned this, but yet focused on the “introspective conscience” aspect and how it was blotting out Paul’s context. Dunn places his focus on this social function and argues this is what Paul was opposed to: an elitism that kept people out when Christ is inviting people in.

Again, this is a very brief overview of what I’ve been reading, which is also a brief overview of the entire study revolving around Paul. But these scholars bring up things I might have never thought about while reading Paul’s letters – especially how he wasn’t, as these scholars suggest, targeting a “works-based” Judaism (that may not have even existed in Paul’s time!).

In future posts I hope to focus a little more on only one or two scholars, especially as I dive deeper and deeper into my research topic. For now, though, I think this is sufficient to get the ball rolling and hopefully create some nuance in our dialogue about Paul.

What do you think of Paul’s apparent negativity toward the law? Is there a negative tone? And what do you think all this means for modern day Christians and our understanding of what Paul is actually trying to say?

I hope everyone has had a great Sunday.

God bless.

“When the Helper comes…”

I know Good Friday (along with Easter) has come and gone, but my mind has been milling over something I picked up from watching Passion of the Christ. Scott, our pastor from Emmaus Life, encouraged us to watch the movie to help get a sense of Good Friday’s significance – to sense the depth of what happened, but, more importantly, why it happened. I’ve seen it several times before and every time its brutality simply makes me squirm.

What has been stuck in my mind since watching the movie has little to do with Jesus’s brutal death. Instead, it is something His death led to; it is something He says in John 14, but is said in a particular way in the movie.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:15-17, 26

In the movie this verse is modified to help speed the movie along (because Jesus can sure be chatty…), but there’s a way in which Jesus says it in the movie that stands out to me. Right before this passage, Jesus is talking about His departure, which quite obviously saddened His disciples. Yet when He talks about the Holy Spirit’s pending arrival, He seems to counter their sadness with overwhelming excitement at the Spirit’s coming. In fact, He was borderline giddy – like a kid on Christmas Eve.

In our Christian subculture, much of our language and literature is devoted to God or to Jesus, which is not a bad thing at all. But the One Whom resides in us, the One Whom Jesus was eager to see, is the Holy Spirit. We pray over and over and over about Jesus’s return, but yet how often do we remember the Helper has already arrived? How often do we take courage in God’s presence through the Spirit?

In Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, he raises this very issue – discussing God as though He were distant. Bell highlights the way in which we describe God’s presence, saying, “It was a God-thing,” or “That’s when God showed up.” Yet if we believe what Jesus says in John 14, that the Spirit will be with us forever, then shouldn’t we believe that God is always with us? Isn’t that the meaning to “Immanuel”? And if that is the case, which I strongly believe it is, then shouldn’t we be a little less worried and a little more confident?

Jesus’s excitement in Passion of the Christ has challenged me. I think Bell puts my challenge beautifully:

“The question, then, the art, the task, the search, the challenge, the invitation is for you and me to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach (essentially the substance of life in a living being; “spirit,” “wind,” “breath,” etc.), present to the depths of each and every moment, seeing God in more and more and more people, places, and events, each and every day,” Pg. 110

Christ was excited about God’s ruach coming into the world, into His church, His creation, for eternity. Such a presence, such a life force, will never leave us – not even at our own biddings:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Easter weekend wasn’t about getting our church fix until Christmas. It wasn’t about having the largest, most extravagant church service in the history of church services. And it wasn’t about buying a whole bunch of candy (that’s what the day after is for). Easter is about the entire event of Jesus’s torture, crucifixion, death, three-day burial, and decisive victory over sin and death by resurrecting from the grave. This is what Paul meant when he said, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” (Romans 8:37, but 8:31-39 for full context).

Easter means that if we love and trust God through His Son Jesus, then we’ve received the promise and seal of the Holy Spirit – forever marking ourselves that we belong to God. God and God alone has the power to give life, which means that even if we die in this world, we will rise in the next, following Jesus’s example. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

God is with us in the exciting moments and the boring, the good and the bad, the rich and the poor. He shares in our joy and in our pain. He weeps with us, laughs with us, cries with us, and rejoices with us. Since His Spirit resides in us, He knows what we think and feel. Therefore there is never not someone who can relate to us; we are never alone. Even if everything we ever had and everyone we knew and loved was all taken away from us, we’d still have God. We’d still have more than enough.

That is why Jesus was excited.

God bless.

Getting Into Character…

Today was a different day at Emmaus Life. Scott & Charissa kidnapped all the married couples for some sort of secret club meeting for married people (probably to discuss how to take over the world), which left all the single people of Emmaus Life gathered together in the Lambs’ living room to talk about Jesus (or to talk resistance plans against the married couples). Despite several moments of awkward silence that usually come along with a change in the routine, it was a great discussion about sincerity.

Our central thought throughout the last few weeks and months with Emmaus Life has been attempting to define the gospel. What is it exactly? And what we don’t mean (and what we are actually trying to avoid) is outlining a doctrinal creed regarding the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and all that jazz – even though all of that is important. Instead, what we’re after, what we’re seeking to understand, is how does the gospel look in action? We talk all the time about Jesus literally living out the gospel – embodying it, even – but what does that mean? How did Jesus live out the gospel?

There seems to be more to it than a mere belief statement. And if we do a quick search through the Scriptures, we find that before doctrinal creeds could even be laid down, people were already living the good news of Jesus. So there is something that changes within us when we come to Christ. What is it? And, as we talked about this morning, do we see it in each other?

Quite naturally, this brought up a discussion about sincerity and what it means to engage others in a sincere manner. For example, when someone asks us how we’re doing, are we being sincere when we reply with “I’m doing well” or “Things are going great”? Or are we being fake – trying not to be noticed for how we really are?

If I’m honest with myself, most of the time that someone asks me how I’m doing, I usually respond with how I am in that particular moment. Whatever happened the day before or even the week before is temporarily forgotten as I’m greeting people on Sunday morning. Perhaps it’s me attempting to avoid confrontation with my own emotions, but part of it is that I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone else. My nature, my human nature, is to assume that my baggage is my baggage and that it’s not right to simply dump it off onto someone else. Yet Jesus not only embodies a new nature; He teaches us to act in the new nature. He teaches us to act like Him.

It seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? Just read through the Gospels to get a sense of how Jesus would act and then carry it out. But the nature Jesus taught us isn’t our nature. In a way, it’s foreign to us. It’d be like traveling to a different country and trying to instantly understand all the idioms, mannerisms, and colloquial things within that country; we can’t – not right off the bat, anyway. Not only would it take some time, it would also take some practice. And in the very moment we begin our practice we realize something very uncomfortable: We have to fake it.

As we talked about this morning, we don’t like to fake it. We don’t like it when we’re being fake with someone else or even ourselves. We want honesty. We want sincerity. But, as I said above, to practice Jesus’ nature is to practice that which is contrary to our own nature. Our human natures are in opposition to the nature of God – that’s why we can often find ourselves in frustration over trying not to sin. Paul’s infamous lines in Romans 7:15; “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Aren’t we the same?

So is the mission of living out the life of Jesus – the gospel – a hopeless endeavor? Is it impossible to practice true, genuine sincerity when caring for the well-being of another? I don’t think so. I forget which author gave me the idea (I think it was C.S. Lewis), but I recall someone discussing how after a while of pretending to be like someone else, we actually become much like that person. Consider actors and actresses; they aren’t naturally the characters they portray on screen. They had to practice their characters’ lines and mannerisms; they had to pretend to be someone else. But yet we all know that the best movies are full of actors and actresses who’ve done a good enough job to make their characters seem real. In a way, they pretended so long and so well that, for but a moment, they became that person we see on screen.

The Christian life, then, is simply a life-long audition where we’re striving to get into character. We’re striving to be like Jesus by sharing His compassion, His servitude, and His love – a love that is not dependent upon one’s emotional state of being, but rather overrules and controls one’s emotions. This sort of love beckons one to care for one’s enemy – not just one’s neighbor – even if or when that particular enemy has wronged us or continues to wrong us – when we don’t feel like doing it. “But Jesus did no such thing!” our human natures might retort. But our human natures are quick to forget that when Jesus was hanging on the cross – with nails through His wrists and legs and with dislocated shoulders – He asked God to forgive those who cursed His name, saying, “They know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).

In a way, Jesus came to give us acting lessons, but yet with an extremely great purpose. It wasn’t to perform well on some grand stage with millions of people watching, but rather off stage and behind the scenes, when no one is watching. He has not taught us how to act so we are able to perform in a play; He taught us how to act in order to change our natures. He taught us how to act so that after pretending long enough, we might become more Christ-like. We might embody His gospel, His nature, His character, in us as actors and actresses do with our favorite movie characters.

All of this to say that if you seek to be more sincere, more caring, more honest, more loving, more Christ-like, then fake it. Pretend to be that Christ like person you wish to be and you just might find yourself actually caring about the people around you – even your enemies. You might find yourself being honest, sincere, and loving. You might one day look in the mirror and be surprised by the appearance of Jesus.

God bless.

P.S. If anyone knows if it was C.S. Lewis or someone else, I’d appreciate the actual reference in the comments. Thanks!