Integration of Life as Discipleship

I’m taking one of my own comments from a conversation on the recent post about the Constitution and reworking it a bit as a post of it’s own. What got me started down this path was a cogent point made by my friend Bruno about the linkage between claiming the Christian faith and the responsibility of citizens to take seriously the highest ideals of our Constitution that inspire us to become a nation of justice for all.

The problem, as I see it, is that it is a very difficult thing to do. It’s not just a matter of differing political viewpoints. It has more to do with contradictions between the teachings of Jesus and secular political views that cannot be easily reconciled with them. In my experience, a great many of us are able to compartmentalize our claims of being Christian on the one hand and our daily secular lives on the other. I’m reminded of a Truman economic advisor named Carr who held that private morality and political and business practices should have no connection. As long as an act was not blatantly illegal, one could and should use any stratagem to win regardless of what happens to he loser.

That is a very extreme example and Carr was not lauded for it. But in fact we are able to compartmentalize more than that, and find ways to live in little boxes labeled home, spouse, work, church, friends, etc. We easily find ways to rationalize their separation, but this dis-integration of one’s life inevitably leads to problems of all kinds including physical and mental illnesses that, grouped together, can become social pathologies.

I think it also leads to extraordinary attempts to create the illusion of integration, and am reminded of very wealthy friends who live in neighborhoods designed to create little integrated worlds catering to their needs and tastes but physically and visually isolated from the less attractive realities surrounding them. Oddly enough I have other friends of very modest means who try to do the same thing by living in remote paces isolated from whatever it is that they fear. I also think that the inherent conflicts in this sort of dis-integration contribute to the fear and paranoia of the current “tea bag” kinds of protests.

To be a Christian is to enter into a process of formation as a disciple of Christ, and that formation requires the re-integration of the various elements of our lives. That is always what is at the heart of the healing acts of Jesus and most profoundly proclaimed in the picnic on the beach scene in the closing paragraphs of John’s gospel, but for many it is a painful process that requires a lifetime of baby steps. Jung, for example, may not have understood Christ very well, but he fully understood the need for that kind of re-integration as an essential part of mature emotional well being.

We are not required to be Jungians, but we are required to understand a fundamental element of our Christian faith to be a transformation in which the totality of our lives become integrated into, with and by the teachings of Jesus. Consider the words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate as a model for what that means. What follows is a the familiar Cecil F. Alexander version:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

It’s been made into a very long hymn, and with a couple of changes of tune and pitch, it’s not all that easy for some to sing. Its strong message of the integration of one’s life with Christ is an even harder thing to accomplish. I suspect a lot of pastors just skip it and congregants are happy to avoid it. Obviously more to be said.

6 thoughts on “Integration of Life as Discipleship”

  1. And that my friend is the journey and the challenge. To open ones eyes and say \”I am your servant Lord\” then walk with your faith as your garment, your hat, your heart, your voice, your hands, etc. Yes we all fail, but we know we can try again, and do better, especially with the help of our community. The tree is known by the fruit it bears, and we have the ability in the church to join with the root that bears the fruit of our desire. Or the fruit that our church bears shows our desire and where our faith lay. So what is the Good News of Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth? What is the Good News of the American Constitution?Do we believe it? What is the reason for our belief in either?Can one be a \”part time\” Christian? A part time American? and what does that mean? say? Especially since both allow the freedom to change loyalties, places of worship and residence. Healing is integration, and only through integration of the way we, personally respond to that and those we encounter with our beliefs and faith, will the world be healed. As you say\”Obviously More to be said\”

  2. Claiming to be a Christian and being one might seem a difficult task or an ignored one if a person did not REALLY WANT to be a disciple of Christ – Christ being around for just the birthing, baptism, burial business – how convenient. But for those of us who do want to take Christ into all of our being or show forth the fact that he lives within us, it can't be ignored can it? And yes, it is a daunting task to uphold Christ's words. It can be momentarily forgotten in a heated or stressful time, but it takes us not long to recall for ourselves that we've let down our part of the discipleship by forgetting or betraying his presence. St. P's Breastplate is a favorite of mine and one that brings up a great deal of emotion, courage, and humble thanksgiving for the gift we've been given to even think of discipleship for ourselves.

  3. CP:A good and thoughtful post. Thanks!First, I am thrilled to hear that we are not required to be Jungians! Whew!Second, however, I completely agree with the compartmentalization issue.The question for me is not \”if\” we as disciples will be involved in this or in that, but \”how\” we should be involved. That is the focus, at least as I understand it.Thanks again for the thoughtful words, and I look forward to our first \”Beer Brawl.\” 🙂

  4. I agree there is a tension between duties to the state and duties to God. I've always found the two kingdoms theology helpful. These are tough matters. Peace to you today.

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