Unpublished: The Daily Witness of the Christian in the World is Essentially Sacramental

I was reading a little William Stringfellow the other morning (I know, surprise, surprise) and I read a passage in his book Free in Obedience that I found very profound (edited to be gender inclusive):
...Christians are free to enter into the depths of the world's existence with nothing to offer the world but their own lives. And that is to be taken literally. What the Christian has to give to the world is his or her very life. The Christian is established in such an extreme freedom by the power of Christ, which is so much greater than the power of death, that we live secure from any threats which death may make.

It is in exercising this ultimate freedom in our involvement in the world that the Christian also understands how to use whatever else is at our disposal--money, status, technical abilities, professional training, or whatever else--as sacraments of the gift of our own lives. The daily witness of the Christian in the world is essentially sacramental, rather than moralistic. The public witness of the Christian is a symbol and communication of our death in Christ every day in each situation in which we find ourselves. We thereby demonstrate our faith in God's triumph over death in Christ. The ethics of witness to redemption are sacramental ethics of grace, rather than of prudence or of law.

But such witness with respect to the world means involvement, not indifference; realism, not withdrawal; knowledge, not ignorance. The Christian is free enough both from our own death and from the reign of death in the world to realize and recognize the signs of death in the world: narcotics, slums, racism, unemployablity, disease, or the oppression of persons by the principalities of commerce, patriotism, sports, communications media, and ideologies. And the Christian is free to enter into the midst of all or any of these ordinary realities of the world's existence, knowing what they truly represent, without succumbing either to their lust for idolatry or the fear of the work of death of which they are evidence. The Christian is so empirically free from the threat of death in their own life and in the existence of the rest of the world that we can afford to place our life at the disposal of the world or of anybody in the world without asking or expecting anything whatever in return.
If you've read the Slavery of Death series you'll see this as a wonderful summary of some of the key ideas: Freedom from the fear of death allowing us to be indifferent to the self-esteem and meaning-making idols of the age: Freedom from the fear of death giving us the ability to become available to others in love.

A line I really like in Stringfellow's quote is this:
The daily witness of the Christian in the world is essentially sacramental, rather than moralistic.
A sacrament is an outward sign of grace. And Christians in the world should be such visble signs of grace.

In a world governed by death and ruled by the principalities and powers Christians should be sacraments--visible signs of resurrection, love, life, hope, joy and grace.

--an unpublished post

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply