I wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: not everything I write around here is based on my “mastery” of the subject matter at hand, nor of some exhaustive set of experiences. Some may think me hypocritical to write beyond what I can prove intellectually or experientially. But I’m not going to change what I write… I’m going to keep right on writing about things beyond my knowledge and experience. Arranged so that each reason builds upon the previous one, here’s why.
- It gives me something toward which to aspire. It is forward-thinking to describe the goal, the ideal, rather than nostalgic to simply recount milestones. I will of course talk about milestones I’ve passed around here, as they may be of help to others. I make no claim that they were all the correct milestones, just the ones I passed. I know some of them were on the right road and others were not… so my recounting of the journey is not prescriptive or any claim to exceptional wisdom — it’s just what I passed along the way, and you may draw your own conclusions even if they differ from mine. As to the milestones I’ve not yet reached, it makes good sense to me to talk about the ones I’m looking for. Some of these are my own ideas of what I’m after, and some are milestones on other people’s journeys. In any event, we advance by looking forward, and if we never looked beyond where we are, there wouldn’t be much in the way of advancement to discuss. Our entire collective journey would then be limited by whoever had previously gotten the farthest… and I suspect that over time, we’d be falling farther and farther short.
- It’s an equalizer. Some may look at what I write and say, “Who are you to say….?” And that’s just the point. I’m nobody. Writing beyond what I’ve mastered underscores this as a reminder. I can recommend practices, such as, most pointedly, “Live your faith and share your life.” You may observe in me a failure at (many!) times to do so. That’s okay… it’s the thing for which I strive, with more success on some days than on others. In this, we are the same. If I am playing the writer or the teacher, I myself must be understood to yet be seeking the same goals which I advocate to those who play the reader or the student. My failure to master these ends in no way diminishes them, if they be proper ends. I can write of them before I fulfill them, believing that though they be difficult and though I may fail more often than not, they are still “achievable ends,” to borrow a phrase. (That would be a great name for a blog, btw.) If you share the ends of which I write, then we aspire together.
- It removes pretense and condemnation. Put simply, it’s as honest as we can get. If I am not require to display perfect mastery of a goal in order to prove it and write about it, I am freed to actually write. I make no claim and readers should find no pretense in the fact that I still seek to practice what I preach. We have phrases like this — “practice what you preach” and “walk the talk” but I say merely that I’m fallible and make the effort… though in many of these things, I fail routinely. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that this in any way diminishes the ideals of which we write and discuss here… it merely underscores our need for assistance in their performance. On that basis, we cannot condemn another with any air of superiority, for we are not. So it is that we should not and will not boast, no matter who else may do so in contrast to our practices. Paul wrote of such people,
For some say, â€œPaulâ€™s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!â€? Those people should realize that our actions when we arrive in person will be as forceful as what we say in our letters from far away. Oh, donâ€™t worry; we wouldnâ€™t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you.
Whether we can act as forcefully as we speak remains to be seen… but we shall make every effort. Any comparison we make should be to the appropriate yardstick and not to the practices of others. All these things of which we write outside our “area of authority” shall be no cause for boasting, which shall maintain the limited scope of boasting in the accomplishments of Christ. So it is that no air of superiority may be cultivated at all.
- It follows Paul’s example, as he wrote,
I donâ€™t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
I just wanted to clear that up, noting that it ties in with recently written ideas on the subject of pressing on in the midst of our imperfections. Indeed, there are times when we learn more of the ideal, of the goal by writing and discussing it even though we have not yet attained it. So around here, I’m going to keep right on talking about the things on which I am not an expert by virtue of a mastery thereof, and everyone is invited to participate in the conversation in the same manner. All good? On we go then.