Christianity Is Not the Power of Positive Thinking

August 2, 2017

Philippians 1:2

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONSIDER THIS

For anyone who has been around church or reading the Bible for any length of time greetings like this can seem so throw away and even cliche.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Honestly, these words strike me with no particular force or spiritual power. How about you? It’s just the standard Sunday School salutation isn’t it?

It reminds me of that scene early in the story of Charlotte’s Web when Charlotte, the spider, awakens Wilbur, the pig, by saying, “Salutations!”

[[Wilbur jumped to his feet. “Salu-what?” he cried.
“Salutations!” repeated the voice.
“What are they, and where are you?” screamed Wilbur. “Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations?”
“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning.”]]

When Paul writes, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” it’s not just a fancy way of saying hello. These are the two power words of the Christian faith. Grace, or karis in Greek, means the unearned, undeserved, unmitigated favor of God. Peace, or shalom in Hebrew, means the unexplainable way God is putting the world back together again in the midst of all the unsettled chaos still spewing out.

Note—this is not Paul’s optimism. Paul speaks for God. Grace and Peace are not from Paul but from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

We should probably mention at this point that Paul is not writing a wispy post card from somewhere on a beach. Paul is in a Roman prison. Grace and peace would seem to be the last thing on Paul’s mind in the crap-storm that had become his life. Paul is not getting his Zen on. He is not finding a transcendental meditative calm in the eye of the storm.

Often we think of our faith as though it were a positive perspective on things—a way of seeing life from another angle. The Christian faith is not a perspective. And it is certainly not the power of positive thinking (as helpful as that can be at times). It’s a point of view, another concept I think we  misappropriate. My point of view is not my opinion. It’s the point or place from which I am seeing things. The Christian faith is not another human perspective on life. It is God’s point of view. It sounds audacious to claim to have God’s point of view doesn’t it? But is this not precisely what Scripture claims—to be God’s point of view?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is not writing from a Christian perspective. He writes from God’s point of view. He is not trying to help us see things differently—as in the glass is really half full. Paul boldly yet humbly declares the way God sees things. He will come to define this gifted and graced point of view with two words: “In Christ.”

Stay tuned. That’s where we’re headed.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who reveals to us your point of view with perfection. Bring us into your point of view. Bring us into the mystery and power of a life “in Christ.” We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you think about this distinction I am drawing between a perspective on something and a point of view?
  2. We live in a world that wants to reduce the Christian faith to just another perspective among many others. What does it look like to claim God’s point of view with humility?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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