17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. II Peter 3:17-18
Here St. Peter admonishes the Diaspora to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In context Peter admonishes the brethren and sistren to grow so that they will not be carried away with the error of unprincipled men; so behind Peter’s admonishment he is presupposing that growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is possible and even imperative even in light of error, indeed, it is this growth that presumably creates a standard from which error has the possibility to err.
But really I want to reflect on something else; yes, it has to do with the ‘grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ but more abstractly. What I want to reflect on a bit is how empty growing in this knowledge can become when 1) the growth takes the form of academic shape, and 2) this knowledge is only something that you or I are interested in, but the masses (of Christians) are aloof to.
When growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ becomes an exercise in not only reading Scripture (in depth), but also an exercise in reading the doctors of the church, most of this becomes nothing more than theological trivia for most; it goes over their heads (only because they aren’t motivated like you, for some reason, to work at understanding some of these depth concepts that are attendant to toiling with the implications of the Gospel), not because people, in general aren’t capable or smart, but because, for whatever reasons thinking theologically along with the theologians is of no interest to them.
And so this dovetails with my #2 above; because knowledge of God, growing in it in supposedly academic ways, is, well “academic” this way of growing in the grace of knowledge of Jesus Christ is sequestered for the egg heads among us; it is deemed of no practical or devotional value – and so most Christians remain aloof to this kind of “growing.” Again, this aloofness really has nothing to do with someone’s aptitude, it has to do (I would suggest) with something else[s]. I really don’t have insight into what it is that crowds this kind of knowledge of Jesus Christ out of people’s space for engagement, but I would guess it has to with the busyness of life in general, and thus growth for many Christians, if desired at all, needs to be something that is quick, sound-bite, pragmatic, and thus practical; practical as defined by how it can be fitted into the quickness of this life (a quickness by the way determined by a variety of societal-economic factors).
Let me be frank: I have spent the better part of the last 20 years engaging deeply (formally and informally) in the daily practice of reading big swaths of Scripture, reading theology, biblical studies, historical theology, learning the biblical languages, engaging in theology of the cross, and it feels abysmally empty. If you gain knowledge and have no one to share it with (in real life), it starts to feel marginal, like theological trivia, and like someone once told me (well more than one person), “it is your hobby Bobby” (with the underlying premise that thinking Christianly or academically [I guess, at least some people consider it this way] is really a vanity). Indeed, this is where I am at; I have no one to share it with, I keep reading and reading into a labyrinth, it seems. What I read and think about has almost become empty; seemingly a hallow nothingness (I know this sounds melo-dramatic, but it is the honest truth). I almost feel as if I have bottomed out.
But I don’t know how else to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ; indeed, it is not supposed to be something done in abstraction from fellowship with others. Nevertheless, because of my current employment I have almost no possible way to meet with any likeminded Christians to engage in theological fellowship of the sort where mutual edification can take place between myself and another, or others.
At this point it is all just starting to feel empty. And yet when I started out, in real crisis of faith (back in 1995), the Lord turned me to his Word (Scripture); my faith began to be nourished richly by reading words, God’s words, and this reading led to reading other words (teachers in the church), and I thought I was on my way. I used to deal with heavy doubt about God’s existence, and existence itself, but I don’t really deal with that pressure as much anymore. I used to deal with terrible guilt about particular sins from the past (and I am referring to way past), and yet I have come to understand (in a relative modicum of course) the freedom that I have in Christ, and this would push me into reading the Bible and fellowshipping in certain ways; but, like I just said, I have genuinely come to a place where I can accept and receive God in Christ’s forgiveness, and so I don’t have this pressure on me anymore. Am I saying I have arrived? Not by a long shot! I am saying though that the things that used to motivate me have blossomed into something fruitful, and yet the by-product (reading a lot of theology) has become something that is almost meaningless to others, it seems, and so it is starting to “feel” meaningless to me (hard to explain what I am really trying to say here).
I love Jesus deeply; I love my family deeply; I have not arrived anywhere yet, but I do know that Jesus has arrived for me, and so I rest there. I guess all that I am saying in this post is that it is lonely; that growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ can start to feel really empty when you can’t share that in depth ways with others (and this because of the daily constraints of this busy and real life). I am trying to say that it becomes lonely growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ when the Christian sub-culture you are a part of, by and large, considers the way you are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as nothing more than a hobby. And I know that what others think shouldn’t really matter, but when growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, in many ways, is contingent upon fellowshipping with other live Christians, and most could really care less about growing in a “hobby-faith” (so labeled), it really does start to become a battle to keep going. But I will.
[Just remember that this is a personal blog, and so I am using it as such … as a personal blog where I reflect in honest ways, and as a place to vent through writing]