“Christianity is certainly not melancholy, it is, on the contrary, glad tidings for the melancholy; to the frivolous, it is certainly not glad tidings, for it wishes, first of all, to make them serious. That is the road we all have to take – over the Bridge of Sighs into eternity.” — Soren Kierkegaard
Located in Venice, Italy, the Bridge of Sighs is a covered walkway connecting the Chief Magistrate’s Palace interrogation rooms to the prison. Encased in white limestone and windows with bars, the historic passage across the bridge offered convicts their last view of Venice before imprisonment. Pensive sadness regretted every step, choice and sigh taken.
Finality is a heavy weight to bear alone.
Chesterton was right when he said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” A more prescient statement has never been written. And left untried, cultural ease now tempts every man into reducing Christianity to hearsay and sound bites, a language without knowledge or worse, language and words defined and arrested by our own competing worldview. My friend Mary uses the term co-opt.
Here is our problem. The very hard work Christians must do is work against their own will. Nothing surrounding us in today’s culture encourages this behavior. This is not the “earning salvation” work the Bible says is fruitless. But on this point neither can we accept a laissez-faire approach. If we are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, pursuing with vigor every morsel that prepares all three for servanthood is that hard work. Avoidance cannot be the compromise by which faith is lost.
Recognizing our ignorance is the beginning of understanding. And every new point of understanding is new ignorance. Hindsight informs knowledge. Much is there to know. And how, living forward, are we able to see backward and discern God’s truth for today? How are we to caress the higher call to live by mercy, justice and love while never forsaking God’s law?
Reason alone brought to bear upon this work by man’s singular ability is a poor conductor of God’s truth. Martin Luther said, “Reason is the devil’s whore.” If we are to leap from the literal to the moral across the bridge to the hoped-for, our will must lie prostrate to allow the Holy Spirit to inform us. Through sincere and honest effort, He will do so. When we fail to try or supplant God’s intention with our worldview, retain control or reject Christ without effort, how shall we ever open heart and mind to those glad tidings?
Phillip Melanchthon writes, “But God will grant understanding only to him who perseveres in the study of words themselves and meditates upon the meaning with which they are informed by the Holy Spirit.” I would add, not by culture, not by hearsay, not by reason do we come to God.
“The knowledge of God is far from the love of Him.” Blaise Pascal
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).