Saturday, October 11, 2008

Too long without Eugene Peterson: contra spiritual elitism

I’m making myself stop. I just started reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He’s been one of my favorites over the last few years, but it’s been too long since I last read him (a year ago or so, I think). I started reading Christ Plays (because my amazing wife gives me Saturdays to relax, recharge, and read) and wanted to pound through the first section of the book because that’s what I do with books, but I made myself stop. Too good. I need to think about it.

I can’t begin to capture how good Peterson is because it’s mostly in how he says it, but I’ll at least let you think about what I’m pondering to see if it is worth you pondering, too. He’s “clearing the playing field” for Christian spirituality to get rid of distractions. The first he’s dealing with is the myth of spiritual elitism, that spirituality is for a special class. He debunks this brilliantly by contrasting two consecutive stories in John 3 and 4 – Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. The stories show that Jesus shows no preference and, in fact, it is the “less respectable” one who gets what Jesus is talking about and. Notice the contrast:

A man and a woman.
City and country.
An insider and an outsider.
A professional and a layperson.
A respectable man and a disreputable woman.
An orthodox and a heretic.
One who takes initiative; one who lets it be taken.
One named, the other anonymous.
Human reputation at risk; divine reputation at risk (p. 18).
Ultimately the point of each doesn’t revolve around the person, but Jesus and the work of God. Peterson states, “Jesus is working at the center. Jesus is far more active than any one of us; it is Jesus who provides the energy” (p. 19). In removing the clutter around spiritual formation and the issue of elitism we see:

spirituality is not a body of secret lore,
spirituality has nothing to do with aptitude or temperament,
spirituality is not primarily about you or me; it is not about personal power or enrichment. It is about God (p. 19).
What a great reminder. God doesn’t care where we are or where we come from, but He cares about where we are going and wants to work in our lives. What a great reminder that, ultimately, the pressure’s off. God’s at work. Not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but because He is and He loves me and wants to change me to become like Him.

Nice. Encouraging.

No comments: