Last Sunday night night one of our Greyfriars preached a fine message at Evensong on the subject of comfort. God comforts us in all our afflictions so that we might be able to extend to others the comfort we ourselves have received (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
This was solid food for thought, as good messages are, and then something came up in the study questions in today’s section on Calvin — we are to apply ourselves to the doctrine of God “with teachableness rather than with subtlety,” and so I thought to make a point about the only appropriate demeanor for Christians. “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: And let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil” (Ps. 141:5). To live any other way is always the way of turmoil.
This is nothing other than reflexive godliness, Golden Rule Christian living. What God does for us, we are to do for others. What we learn from Him we are to apply to ourselves in the first instance, when what we really want to do is apply it to all those other people who have not learned what we have just learned, and are not nearly so wise.
We have a constant, internal pressure to slip off this point. “Here am I, Lord. Send Aaron.” This is due to our remaining sinfulness which, incidentally, does not make it okay. The old blues song says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” As P.J. O’Rourke puts it, everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to help mom with the dishes. Linus loves mankind — it is people he can’t stand. I could really get down to the work of being godly if all these people would just go away.
Mark Twain said a classic is a book that everyone wants to have read, but nobody wants to read. In a similar way, a genuine Christian life is a life that everyone wants to have lived, but nobody wants to start now. And we flip it for others — we want them to start now, and we don’t want them to have the credit for having lived that way. In short, we are piece of work and can screw up anything — even the doctrine that we are piece of work.
Is there no hope then? Well, there wouldn’t be if we were our salvation. But fortunately, the Lord is our righteousness, and He will complete the work He has begun — building His glorious kingdom among the Dufflepuds.