31 October 2009

barnabas' triad

Within the Apostolic Fathers is The Epistle of Barnabas (which probably doesn't have anything to do with the person mentioned in Acts, but nevertheless displays some early Christian teaching). He admonishes the intended recipients of the letter with 'three basic doctrines' gleaned from Jesus' teaching.

"Well, then, there are three basic doctrines of the Lord: the hope of life, which is the beginning and end of our faith; and a righteousness, which is the beginning and end of judgment; and a glad and rejoicing love, which is the testimony of works of righteousness. For the Master has made known to us through the prophets things past and things present, and has given us a foretaste of things to come. Consequently, when we see these things come to pass, one thing after the other just as he predicted, we ought to make a richer and loftier offering out of reverence for him."

(trans. Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers 3rd ed, 382-383)

Reflecting on these three aspects of our faith reminds us of the importance of daily witness. It is not enough to claim to be followers of Christ, we must also demonstrate our sincerity with the fullness of our lives. Many people can claim that they have hope, but few take the time to make genuine hope turn to a new reality for the hopeless. Our culture continues to seek justice and righteousness, but it always seems as though it eludes our ability to achieve it in this world. And it seems like everyone is talking about love (or the need to love), with so few people showing actual love to their neighbor.

These ideas are of divine origin, and the world cannot replicate them. Simply stated, we try to make these happen without the work of the Spirit or submission to the Savior, and that is why we fail to actualize. That is also why we can hear a lot of people who say they can bring a culture of hope, righteousness and love, and never make it a reality. All sorts of people have been promising this for generations, but without any lasting change in the world. The reality of our broken and fallen world returns to remind us that we are unable to fix ourselves - it will take a more radical solution.

The heritage of faith ought to remind us of such things, by looking back at the saints who have gone before. They kept the faith alive by showing how to live out faith, righteousness and love (among other things). Our remembrance at once gives us challenge and inspiration to face the uncertain days ahead with the unwavering proclamation of the gospel - to remember that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is Lord of this world. As the work of his church continues to bring the fullness of his kingdom, I pray that each would have a blessed All Saints' Day.

No comments: