Claudine Gay announced her resignation as Harvard’s president yesterday after a new round of accusations surfaced over plagiarism in her scholarly work. She has been facing mounting criticism over how she responded to antisemitism on campus as well. Her testimony before a House committee on December 5 was excoriated by very influential donors to the university, and student groups have been calling for her resignation over plagiarism allegations.
The story shows that even the president of America’s oldest and most highly endowed institution of higher education is not immune to criticism from the constituents she serves. Theirs is a transactional and symbiotic relationship—if the president leads in ways her students and donors affirm, they will provide the support she needs to lead effectively.
It’s hard to identify a significant relationship in our capitalistic, consumeristic society that does not function on similar lines. If my Daily Articles do not meet your needs, you will stop reading my work and supporting our ministry. If they do, you will enable us to continue, which enables us to serve you, which enables us to continue.
Even most marriages and families have a transactional dimension whereby we serve those we hope will serve us as well. Rare is the relationship based on unconditional, holistic, and unrequited sacrifice by one for the other.
But this is exactly how our Father loves us. Now he is calling us to embrace his love in ways that transform our souls and our society.
As our witness grows bolder
Yesterday, we noted that many Americans have all of God they want. This pleases Satan. He wants us to be inoculated with religion about God so we don’t develop a real relationship with him. The result is lost people who are convinced they’re not lost and Christians who are happy with their spiritual status quo.
Consequently, when believers decide that we want to experience more of God through more holistic obedience, Satan can be expected to respond by raising the cost of such obedience. Unexpected distractions arise when we are trying to be alone with the Lord. New and increasing temptations entice us to turn back from our quest for greater holiness. Painful circumstances provoke us to question the reality and relevance of our deeper faith.
Also, as we grow bolder in our witness, our anti-Christian culture grows more intransigent and condemning. If we will not be silent, those under Satan’s control will try to silence us (cf. Acts 4:18).
Of course, the Enemy would rather we persist in spiritual complacency. But if we are determined to seek deeper intimacy with our Lord, Satan will do all he can to stymie us. If he succeeds, the consequences can be even more fruitful for him—we become discouraged and may abandon our quest for more holistic obedience, and our moral and spiritual defeats dishonor our Lord.
The remedy is to greet temptations and difficulties as the spiritual good news they are. They show that Satan sees us as an enemy worth his time, indicating that our deeper commitment to Christ threatens him on a level that requires his nefarious response. And they provide us with an opportunity to trust our Lord even more fully and thus experience his grace even more powerfully.
The challenge is the opportunity
Of course, Satan knows that this response will defeat his strategy. This is why he sometimes adopts the opposite approach: he maintains his status quo with us, hoping the spiritual disciplines we are practicing become ends instead of means. Over time, our time with God becomes a habit more than an experience. We read the Bible and pray as chores to complete more than invitations to accept. And we fall back into the transactional consumerism we sought to avoid.
Such self-reliance is by definition the enemy of spiritual formation since the latter can be accomplished only by God’s Spirit. Praying, reading Scripture, and all other spiritual disciplines do not earn God’s favor—they position us to experience his grace. When we practice them as tasks to complete more than encounters with the living Christ, we forfeit his transforming presence. And over time, we are likely to abandon them altogether.
So, the challenge is the opportunity. Begin every day by submitting that day to God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Make time to worship, pray, read Scripture, and practice other spiritual disciplines as he leads you. Walk with your Lord through the day as you pray about all you experience, seeking to think biblically and respond redemptively.
But do so in reliance on God’s Spirit to empower you and to use your commitments to form the character of Christ in you. When you meet temptation and opposition, turn them immediately over to your Lord, asking him for the strength to refuse sin and to persist in godliness. See them as evidence that you are proceeding in a way that honors your Father and frustrates your enemy. And know that your quest to know Christ and make him known is making you more like Jesus and continuing his earthly ministry in transforming ways.
“King Jesus comes again to take over”
My friend Dr. Duane Brooks recently noted:
Someday our King will come back to this world. He will not come to take sides in our internecine conflicts. King Jesus comes again to take over. He will not ride a donkey or an elephant.
So the question is not: “Is Jesus King?” but “Will you serve King Jesus today?”
He also quoted in his daily devotional this statement by Alan Redpath: “We can never pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ until we are willing to pray, ‘My kingdom go.’”
Whose kingdom will you serve today?