The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. . . Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.
— from The Mark of the Christian by Francis A. Schaeffer, 1970
This concept of holiness and love entwined is behind all the mistakes Christians make. One of the double strand gets loose and my son is in his bed crying because of hurt feelings. Another of the double strand gets loose and we do something on Sunday that is not worshipful. Well, those are just two small examples. Christians make big mistakes, too, and a lot of bitterness and bad feeling builds up because of them. Or an ignorance of the true God grows in people’s hearts.
So we move past the unkindnesses. We strive to be loving.
So we strive toward true holiness. We move beyond the neglect toward God.
Slowly and imperfectly the double strand twines together to form what a Christian looks like, and this is what the Holy Spirit does in us.
I’ve been thinking about gentleness and parenting lately. With three little ones, I often find myself speaking sharply, acting quickly and without much grace, doing my best to not let anyone get away with anything. Because one moment of craziness quickly escalates into mayhem. At least, that’s my excuse. But when I stop and think about things from one of my children’s point of view, well, then I see need for improvement in myself.
So how do I go about my daily work (like the father in this painting) while showing great amounts of love, patience and grace to each of my children? This is probably something I need to pray about. Pray my heart inside out, and let the Holy Spirit turn it around.
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
“Vain man,” said she, “that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize,
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.”
“Not so,” quod I, “let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name,
Where, whenas Death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.”
— Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
A reason to write, to love, and to write about your love. May Someone eternize your virtues rare. Happy Valentine’s Day!