Life in Microcosm1
– A Spiritual Syllogism
By John R. Wible
A “microcosm” is an epitome, a very small but thorough represe...
one can say that all Christians are called to do is to “love God and love man”4
– that’s
all. No Law, no rules, no regulat...
internal and external. These internal include among others, prayer, meditation, and
Bible study.
Prayer, of course, includ...
needy group, the "disadvantaged."11
"Love thy neighbor,"12
Jesus urges us, “He that is
in need,”13
he that is "disadvantag...
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Life in Microcosm - A Spiritual Syllogism. 1 Peter 1:15

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Life in Microcosm - A Spiritual Syllogism. 1 Peter 1:15

  1. 1. Life in Microcosm1 – A Spiritual Syllogism By John R. Wible A “microcosm” is an epitome, a very small but thorough representation of a very large thing that enables one, by observing the small and comparing with the large, to know the large thing. Peter, in Chapter One of his first Epistle gives us life in microcosm as he admonishes us, paraphrasing Leviticus 11:45, 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (NIV) In 1 Peter 1:15, the word for "be" is genethete in the Greek. Grammatically, genethete is an aorist imperative which means that it is a verb not of being but of becoming. It is an imperative command, a thing that must be done; Not an “oughta” but a “gotta.” Peter says that we must become “holy.” His microcosmic admonition raises at least two questions, each of which raise further questions. First, what is “holy?” Second, how do we become “holy?”” “Holy”2 has been variously defined, but for our purposes, we define it as "set apart for God's service."3 The implication is that God placed Christians here solely to serve or to please God – easy to say, hard to do – well worth both the saying and the doing. It is worth it because there is a hidden beautiful secret in this command. It is in this service, and only in this service, that we find both our reason for existence and our highest fulfillment in existence. If we lose ourselves becoming holy, we find ourselves achieving the things that we most want, really want, in life. In becoming set apart for God's service, we are related into but not co-mingled with the world. These relationships, vertical and horizontal, are our true blessing, and we all want to be blessed whether we will admit it or not. Further, in becoming set apart for God's service, and only in so doing, we are able to fulfill all the other commands of the Bible. In this one command, God, via Peter's pen, has given us in microcosm, both the question of life and the answer to the question. If that were so, what are Christians called to do specifically? The answer to that question reveals itself in a myriad of ways for each individual person; but, generally 1 The scriptural passage is a brilliantly inspired microcosm. This paper, alas has become more cosmic than micro. 2 In the Hebrew, qadash, qaddish, or kadosh; Greek, hagios; Latin, sanctus. 3 Strong, James, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. (First published in 1890.) All rights reserved, John R. Wible, July 19, 2014. Page 1
  2. 2. one can say that all Christians are called to do is to “love God and love man”4 – that’s all. No Law, no rules, no regulations; not even a list of do’s and don'ts. As Johnny Bench would say in the paint commercial, “No runs, no drips, no errors.” Hopefully, this point is sufficiently concise, but it begs the next question, “How are we able to do this?” After one has beaten his head against a wall still trying to be holy, the obvious answer becomes clear. C.S. Lewis observes that pain has a certain way of bringing clarity.5 We, in and of ourselves are not capable of “loving God and [actually or even] loving man.” About all we are capable of loving is ourselves, and we need help even doing that. The last statement leads to yet another question, “From what source does our help come?” The Psalmist says, "I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains."6 Pastor Timothy Keller tells us that looking to the mountains in Leviticus was a reference to the Canaanite prophets building altars to the Baals on the hills and then appealing to them as if they were real gods. The prophet, Elijah would ask them, “So, how's this working out for you?"” With what my daughter, Amy refers to as an “uncanny grasp of the obvious,” we post- Enlightenment people, conclude that building altars to the Baals and appealing to them for help is only a Paleolithic representation of man haplessly seeking to reach God from the ground up rather than appropriating the true and only help that comes from God, top-down. However, to our "enlightened" surprise, I submit that it is we, not the Baal-worshippers who are "directionally challenged.” Faith and spirituality aside, experience, history and a rudimentary knowledge of the nature of man informs us that allowing God, not only to speak to us, but perhaps more importantly, to live in us, which constitutes the ultimate “top-down” approach, is the only way to become holy. Be as it may all this philosophical truth, neatly wrapped, bowed, and ours for the taking, another question is begged. “How do you actually do it?” In the answer is some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that there is no formula. The good news that there is no formula. However, if we remember how Christians have done this over the millennia, we cannot help but be led to the observation of the traditional spiritual disciplines,7 both 4 Matthew 22:37-40, paraphrased quoting the Shema, Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4. 5 Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain. 6 Psalm 121:1,2. The Message. 7 Traditional or classical spiritual disciplines are variously enumerated and classified. One such list the All rights reserved, John R. Wible, July 19, 2014. Page 2
  3. 3. internal and external. These internal include among others, prayer, meditation, and Bible study. Prayer, of course, includes what I have observed to be our first thought, though by no means the totality, that being supplication, an asking for something related to our and other people's needs. Further though, it includes the recognition of our relative position viz. and relationship to God, to our appreciation for all He does for us and to the acknowledgment of the points at which we put our desires above those of God. Woefully, a prayerful component, often missed is contemplation. Bishop N.T. Wright quotes a great philosopher as saying that contemplation answers what prayer asks. Prayer asks, "Who are You, God?" "Who am I and what do you want me to do?" In contemplation, and in Bible study, God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the answer that He wants us to have. Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive."8 Of course, as with all things valuable, the answer is frequently not cheap, easy, obvious, expected or anything we want to hear. Perhaps that is why we don’t do it very often. There is a time to think deeply philosophical thoughts. For people like me, that is the fun of it. However, and frighteningly, I might add, “The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things. . .”9 There comes a time to put aside philosophical thought and in the words of Nike, to "Just do it." For me, that's the hard part. In the end, though that is the most rewarding part, just doing it, fulfilling our purpose on earth, loving God and loving man. Love, it turns out, and contrary to popular culture’s teaching, is not a feeling but a “doing.” It is a fancy with feet, a hypothesis with hands, a speculation with skin, and a whim with wings. Once again, one turns to the traditional disciplines, now to the external ones, the ones that involve doing something to, for, about, or with other people. James tells us that true religion is looking after the needs of the widows, the orphans,10 the poor, and as Bishop Wright observes, the quintessential post-modern internal disciplines as meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, and solitude The external disciplines in clued submission, service, confession guidance, celebration. Salvation Army, Spiritual Life Development, http://www.sarmy.org.au/en/Ministry/Spiritual-Life-Development/Spiritual- Disciplines/ accessed July 17, 2014. 8 Isaiah 30:19; Matthew 7:7,8; 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:29; John 14:13;15:7; and 16:23. 9 The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll. 10 James 1:27. All rights reserved, John R. Wible, July 19, 2014. Page 3
  4. 4. needy group, the "disadvantaged."11 "Love thy neighbor,"12 Jesus urges us, “He that is in need,”13 he that is "disadvantaged;” Even, "Love your enemy."14 Did I leave out anyone? If so, feel free to fill in the blanks. The Apostle James clarifies by saying to us, "don't tell me you love me - show me.”15 Here's where the external and internal disciplines meet, where they mingle, in fact, where they merge. We have all heard the saying, "Fake it ‘til you make it."16 It has even been applied spiritually. May I submit that is error. There is nothing fake about it. "Faking it" is a bottom up approach that is as doomed to failure as Elijah's Baal- worshipping friends. We can only do love as God enables us to so do. The holy life is an upside-down life as compared with what people conceive of as life. It is a top-down life. Perhaps, the converse is true. It just may be that it is the people that have it wrong as compared with the holy life in not feeling it while at the same time in doing it. By now, my reader may accuse me of circular logic, but not so. God commands us to become holy. Perhaps unbeknownst to us, He is the mechanism for our becoming holy because as He commands us to “become” holy, He is holy.17 One becomes holy by becoming holy. How then, does one become holy? One becomes holy in the same way a musician gets to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. The doing is the becoming and the becoming is the doing. Ultimately, the becoming and the doing become the “being,” though that’s for another life when “faith shall be sight.”18 That’s this life in microcosm. 11 Wright, N.T., Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters.(2011.) 12 Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31. 13 Luke 1025-37. 14 Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27. 15 James 1:22. 16 This modern-day aphorism may have its Genesis in Aristotle's notion that ”acting virtuous will make one virtuous.” 17 I Peter 1:15, thus closing the circle, see page 1, supra. 18 Spafford, Horatio, It is Well with my Soul, verse six. All rights reserved, John R. Wible, July 19, 2014. Page 4

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