Worldliness & Other-Worldliness

Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)

Children of the world sometimes dismiss the Christian ideal of self-sacrifice. It’s inhumanely destructive, they think.

Somerset Maugham has a chilling passage in his novel The Razor’s Edge in which he reverses the roles in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Maugham has it, Satan manages to seduce Christ into taking up the cross.

Somerset MaughamThe worldly mind–the mind intent on a good glass of wine and a choice cigar–sees the Christian spirit of self-sacrifice as the ultimate destructive force in the world.

It struck me that this criticism of Christianity would have some real merit, if it weren’t for two inescapable facts:

1. We will all die someday, and where will we get wine and cigars then?

2. Jesus Christ is not only the great example of self-sacrifice; Jesus Christ is personally God. God reconciling the world to Himself by His own self-offering of His human life.

So: We Christians do not try to take up our crosses daily solely for the sake of imitating Christ—though, of course, we do hope to imitate Him, however feebly. The main reason we take up our crosses with whatever courage we can muster is: Because God Himself has given us eternal life by taking up His cross.

Modern aesthetes and cultivated worldlings certainly have given the Creator some glory by learning how to enjoy a good meal, a good glass of wine, and a sunset. No doubt.

But we Christians hope for more than a good meal, a good glass of wine, and a picturesque sunset. We hope for something more than what anyone can share on facebook or Twitter.

We take up our crosses, however feebly, with joy. Because we hope for undying heaven.

One thought on “Worldliness & Other-Worldliness

  1. Father Mark,

    The Worldly viewpoint does have its merits. If we can’t answer the questions posed by it, we must look deeper with ourselves, and within the body of direction out there that points unerringly at God. It helps to have a guide, a human guide; and the blind can’t lead the blind; but it is just possible that two sightless ones might just manage to struggle through this existence, and aspire to Heaven when we shuttle off this mortal coil. We do have it on good account that “Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord* is not easily broken.” [ Ecclesiastes 4:12] It’s interesting that the two must assume the defensive position (back to back); and further interesting that adding a third (frequently taken as God) forms an unbreakable bond.

    In God we trust.



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