What Eugene Said

Posted by Mark Tubbs
In News & Notes
Tagged Eugene Peterson
January 21, 2011 @ 10:05 PM

As a relative novice to regular blogging, I spent a disproportionate amount of time and mental energy yesterday and today wondering if I had been too harsh in my most recent post, "You Are Not Methuselah." As Mike Bickle is quoted in Stephen Strang's Old Man, New Man (an otherwise unremarkable book that I wouldn't read twice nor would I recommend highly), "God enjoys the sincere believers even when they are still immature." Yes, the Father rejoices along with the angels at the very moment when one of His daughters or sons is birthed anew into the kingdom of God (Luke 15:7). God's constant love and consistent fatherly enjoyment is a precious truth to the believer.

However, Bickle goes on: "God enjoys me even before I'm mature. He enjoys me while I'm struggling, and that pushes me on to maturity." Strang inserts an editorial comment: "If you can understand that one principle, the knowledge of God's love will grow you into maturity." Now, much more can and should be said, and Strang surely oversells his editorial comment by prefacing it with "that one principle," but Bickle and Strang are fundamentally correct: there isn't a level of Christian maturity at which God begins to enjoy his children. But it's equally true that neither is God content to leave you wallowing in immaturity.

Eugene Peterson is far more eloquent than Bickle, Strang, or I could be on the topic:

The only serious mistake we [as Christians] can make when illness comes, when anxiety threatens, when conflict disturbs our relationships with others is to conclude that God has gotten bored looking after us and has shifted his attention to a more exciting Christian, or that God has become disgusted with our meandering obedience and decided to let us fend for ourselves for a while, or that God has gotten too busy fulfilling prophecy in the Middle East to take time now to sort out the complicated mess we have gotten ourselves into. That is the only serious mistake we can make. It is the mistake that Psalm 121 prevents: the mistake of supposing that God's interest in us waxes and wanes in response to our spiritual temperature.

Perhaps Peterson, like Strang with his "one principle," oversells the "only serious mistake" bit. But he goes on:

The great danger of Christian discipleship is that we should have two religions: a glorious, biblical Sunday gospel that sets us free from the world, that in the cross and resurrection of Christ makes eternity alive in us, a magnificent gospel of Genesis and Romans and Revelation; and, then, an everyday religion that we make do with during the week between the time of leaving the world and arriving in heaven. We save the Sunday gospel for the big crises of existence. For the mundane trivialities - the times when our foot slips on a loose stone, or the heat of the sun gets too much for us, or the influence of the moon gets us down - we use the everyday religion of the Reader's Digest reprint, advice from a friend, an Ann Landers column, the huckstered wisdom of a talk-show celebrity. We practice patent-medicine religion. We know that God created the universe and has accomplished our eternal salvation. But we can't believe that he condescends to watch the soap opera of our daily trials and tribulations; so we purchase our own remedies for that. To ask him to deal with what troubles us is like asking a famous surgeon to put iodine on a scratch.

But Psalm 121 says that the same faith that works in the big things works in the little things. The God of Genesis 1 who brought light out of darkness is also the God of this day who guards you from every evil. (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction)

What Eugene said.