Thursday, November 11, 2010

You are not your own

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 81

Read: Romans 15:1-1 Corinthians 14:40

Verse that stood out:
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

According to advertisers and rock stars, the great goal of the modern-Western project is to be one's own man or woman. Never mind that reality confirms that none of us are where we are all on our own. In our culture, a person is deemed valuable, successful if they are self-made, self-aware, self-actualized. Be your own man. Be your own woman. Don't let anyone tell you what to do. You gotta do what makes you happy. To be owned is to be shamed, played, degraded by another.

And yet, right in the middle of the New Testament are these words, "You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." It doesn’t get more counter cultural than that – you aren’t your own person, you are owned by another, so act like it. The paradox of the gospel is that being owned is the only way to true life. Remember, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables?

There, the story is told of a Jean Valjean, a criminal, who is released from a life of hard labor into the world to fend for himself. A law breaker, he is unable to find work or even lodging. He can do what he wants, but doing what he wants doesn’t get him very far. He is dead in his supposed freedom. He’s taken in by a humble bishop. The bishop feeds Valjean supper and gives him a place to sleep. Life in prison, however, has made Valjean a hardened man. He knows no gratefulness. During the night he sneaks through the house, steals the silver and makes out into the darkness.

Soon, however, Valjean is apprehended by the police who drag him back to the bishop’s house. Before the police can get out much of an explanation for their arrival the Bishop interrupts:

“Ah, there you are,” said he, looking towards Jean Valjean, “I am glad to see you. But! I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?” Hugo writes that “Jean Valjean opened his eyes and looked at the Bishop with an expression which no human tongue could describe.”

Well, there is some back and forth between the police and the bishop, but ultimately, without the Bishop’s cooperation the police have no case – so they let Valjean go. Hugo continues the story:

Jean Valjean felt like a man who is just about to faint. The Bishop approached him, and said, in a low voice: ‘Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.’

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of this promise, stood confounded. The Bishop had laid much stress upon these words as he uttered them. He continued solemnly: ‘Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying or you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”

While the story takes a while to unfold, we eventually come to realize that Jean Valjean had indeed been transformed by mercy, and he would therefore, from that day forth live his life in view of another’s mercy. Valjean was no longer his own man. He was owned by another.

As a Christian, we are not our own. We can't just do whatever we want, even if doing so makes us happy. We are not self-made people. We have been saved, rescued, bought by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, we must do what God wants us to do. In the context of 1 Corinthians, we can't just do whatever makes us feel good sexually, we must honor God with our bodies. In the context of the rest of the New Testament, every aspect of our lives are included. No longer can we simply think about our own interests, we must spend our lives focused upon the glory of God and the well-being of others.

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