December 2001

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How do you teach sanctification without aiding and abetting legalism? Mark did his level best to do just that for the Kwong and  writes about it on the front page of this edition. On the back page the Duke and Duchess of Chageen take center stage as Diane tells the story of some of our friends in the village. 

What do I have to gain by being good?

Meditations on Sanctification among the Kwong

Paul calls it simply “hope.” Theologically the term refers to the Christian’s joyful anticipation of his or her final destiny in the age to come. For lack of any better expression, we translate it into Kwong as “the thought of the future which brings joy.” Whatever you choose to call it, it is offered time and again by the apostles as motivation for a well-ordered life of faith and purity - something I didn’t fully appreciate when I set out three months ago to somehow motivate Kwong believers to lives of holiness without aiding and abetting their compulsive legalism.

The general argument for holiness, as it has slowly unfolded with new vividness from the Scriptures these last months, is that God has destined those humans who meet his expectations of faith and love to be transformed into glorious, miraculous beings - something far more glorious indeed than I had previously imagined. The important point for holiness is that he has begun this program of transformation in this life, and he expects that the promised grandeur of the finished product will motivate us to behave in ways conducive to seeing the program through.

Of course such motivation presupposes a clear, compelling understanding of the finished product. In fact, my own understanding derived from my classic evangelical upbringing was neither clear nor compelling. Some vague notions of goodness, heaven, the end of suffering, and “being in the presence of God” pretty much summed it up. As far as that goes, the Kwong, for whom suffering is no laughing matter, had one up on me in this regard. But the Scriptures paint an extraordinary picture, however incomplete, of a reality that outstrips our traditional platitudes on heaven and reach into the very nature of what we actually will become.

Text Box: Dear friends... we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.
(I John 3:2-3) 
Something metaphysically will transpire at the hand of God - indeed has already begun to transpire - such that the apostles feel obliged to employ the language of “transformation” and “metamorphosis” to express it. It is an existence described as “eternal glory” such that we will be in some profound sense “the same image” as the Son himself. Entry into such an exalted state is cast in terms no less than being “born again.” Scripture never teaches the deification of humans, but, as one commentator puts it, the reality it suggests awaits us just grazes the conceptual edge of such a glorious destiny. The point seems to be that we will be sons and daughters of the Most High in more than a purely metaphorical sense and the reality of our brotherhood with Christ will be more than a superficial fraternity. Being bound as we are by our terrestrial experience, we imagine our existence in the age-to-come to be an improvement on the human theme, much as the chrysalis of a butterfly might feebly imagine it’s life-to-come as being an improvement on the hanging-on-a-twig theme. Yet the character of our bodies (if they may still be called such), the capacities of our minds, and the intensity of our emotions, and our interaction with God will so exceed our present experience as to render it “beyond what we can ask or imagine.” Yes, God is not only “able” to do it, but will do it.

Someone has said that “to explain something simply, you must understand it profoundly.” This, my most recent sojourn through Scripture is only the latest of many occasions where I am indebted to the Kwong for compelling me, by virtue of their simplemindedness, to plumb the depths of Scriptures to a degree that a more “sophisticated” audience would never require of me. And I am much the richer in my own devotion because of it, sobered as I am by the sharpened realization that the smallest daily decisions - how I treat Diane, how I treat people at the door, what my mind dwells upon - are all, however imperceptibly, advancing the Divine program of glorifying me, or frustrating it.

Here are a few of the Scripture references which influenced me in my study of sanctification. For the transformation of humans into glorious, majestic beings: 2 Cor 3:17; Col 3:10; 1 John 3:2; Phil 3:21; Rom 8:18,29; Cor 5:1-5,9 and Gal 3:14) For the anticipation of this transformation as a motive to holy living: 1 John 3:1-3; Col 3:4,5,9,10; Phil 3:12-14; Rom 6:1,4ff; Titus 2:11-14; Eph 4:22-25.

The Duke and Duchess of Chageen

Once upon a time a handsome Duke and lovely Duchess lived peacefully together in a manor that stretched far and wide. One day an older cousin came to stay. Patsy was much bossier than the Duchess, but Duchess and Duke were able to make it clear to Patsy that her place was third in line - a position she, with time, assumed without further complaint. Some time later, the quiet of the manor was further disrupted when Junior, the son of a distant relative, arrived. Like most adolescents, he was always a bit off beat from the rest of the world. Because of his dubious pedigree, Duke, Duchess, and Patsy sidelined him and the best he could hope for at dinner time was whatever food escaped the notice of the others. However, with time, he too adapted and was integrated into the life at the manor. 

In the absence of TV or video, we get our entertainment and inspiration elsewhere, such as from our chickens, whose antics inspired their names as well as this little story of their origins. But perhaps more interesting is the true tale of their origins. This is how we came by this lot of four.

There stood the blind fellow from down the road, with his beautiful young wife and six month-old child. Let's call him Bart (short for Bartimaeus). Bart first came into our lives shortly before the birth of their daughter. He wanted some clothes for his wife, a request that we duly granted from the "give-away" box we keep for such occasions. He was effervescent in his thanks, but after that we didn’t see him for a few months. Then rainy season came, and with it hardship for the Kwong. At this time of year, all of last years’ millet had been eaten or used as seed, and hunger had set in for everyone. And so it was that Bart showed up again, not once, but twice, to beg or buy a little millet from us.  On the second occasion, however, he stood there with a beautiful laying hen, who we would later christen Duchess - a gift of gratitude for our previous generosity as well as an installment on future generosity. We put a little more millet in their bowl and sent them on their way.

Bart and his wife have a real Romeo and Juliet sort of story. Unlike most Chadian couples, they actually fell in love. Her father, however, opposed the match, hoping his daughter would be more discriminating in her choices. So they eloped to another village, and after her family came to terms with their daughter's marriage a couple years later, they moved back to Chageen. Now they work together in a precious relationship that is very rare among Chadians couples. Because of his disability, he could easily become a lazy dependent of society, yet he plants fields like everyone else. He does it by depending on his gem of a wife to, for example, find where he left off work in his field the day before. Together in love they make it work.

No sooner had we tied up Duchess than Moses the Younger's old mother, came with a big, red, and very noisy rooster  - thanks for a small gift of millet we gave her a couple days earlier, as well as inducement to give her a couple more quarts as seed grain.  So we tied Duke up next to Duchess.

Four days later an old woman brought another good sized laying hen to sell in order to buy millet and other necessities at the market. Being kind of plump, this hen exuded that “maid of the house” aura, so we called her Patsy and she joined the Duke and Duchess out back.

Finally, the same day a young lady came with yet another chicken – a scrawny thing of indeterminate gender – which we duly bought to help her buy a few necessities. Thus began our chicken farm which has now grown to seven birds, most of them representing a relationship with someone in Kwongland much more important than a simple domestic bird.


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