During the recent Baptist World Alliance gathering in Jamaica, Glen Stassen received the Human Rights Award, recognizing his years of stalwart work in peacemaking initiatives. His writing and activism have been transformative on many fronts; his inspiration to his teaching colleagues and students is immeasurable. I add my “well done” alongside a cloud of witnesses who bear testament to his ministry among us. He stands as a measure for incarnational discipleship.
The lectionary texts for next Sunday offer ways to assess our stature before God. The prophet Amos has a vision of the Lord with a plumb line, demonstrating God’s own judgment of the uprightness of Israel (Amos 7:7-9). God’s justice and mercy always determines the reality in which humans participate.
The epistle reading, Colossians 1:1-14, singles out Epaphras for special commendation. “He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit” (vv. 7-8). The apostle wants members of the church at Colossae to emulate his character.
Finally, the Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ conversation with lawyer who seeks to justify his own character. Surprisingly, the Good Samaritan becomes the plumb line for righteous behavior. This “other” was moved with pity, a key aspect of being truly neighbor.
The goal of our lives as Christians is to be “conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.” This is our life’s work, and grace empowers us to be faithful in this pursuit. Christ has found us along the road and bound up our wounds, and his healing makes us whole. God lavishes us with mercy, and our sinfulness cannot extinguish the light of Christ, which continues to burnish our true selves.
Perceiving the presence of Christ in others encourages our spiritual formation. Holy transparency to the transforming power of the Spirit of God offers concrete testimony, a pattern worthy of imitation.
Ultimately, Christ is the measure of our lives, and we only understand ourselves in light of his “full faithfulness,” in the words of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, Jr. May our hearts’ desire be someday to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant” as God takes the full measure of our lives hidden in Christ.
Molly T. Marshall
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