I continue to reflect on what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Is it enough to believe? Are we not called to something far deeper than intellectual assent and righteous behavior? These are in themselves challenging, but I suggest that they are far short of what we are called to be.
Allow me to use a musical metaphor. There are many technically good musicians. They understand the theory, can quickly read music, they have a keen sense of pitch and relative harmonic relationships. They are technically competent with their instrument. In short, they can competently execute the task of playing music.
Then there are those who truly master their instrument. They have the ability to eek out every last nuance the instrument is capable of. They draw out of the instrument the subtly of the music on the page and the conductors direction.
Then there are those who master the music, artists. These are the ones who enter into the music. They become artistic participants with the composer, the orchestra and conductor. They do not play the music; they are the music. The music flows from their being—an extension of who they are.
It is not a linear progression from technician to artist. There are those who defy the “rules” and achieve levels of artistry with little or no “technical” training. For most, however, the road is one of symbiotic development of both the technical and the artistic.
The problem is that while we can learn the technical knowledge and through diligent practice master an instrument, artistry cannot be taught. Artistry emerges from within. It is a transformation, not an education. At best we can facilitate and encourage artistry.
What does this have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Everything. To be created in the image of God is to be created for artistry. It is to enter into creation in participation with the Creator, loving what He loves, valuing what He values and embodying this with out reservation or contrary thought. It is truly being made in the image of God. Unfortunately, because of sin we find our selves striving to regain that which was lost, the artistry of being made in the image of God.
As the Church, we are reasonably adept at the technical side of discipleship. We learn how to read the music, play the notes and present some semblance of the composers work. What we are not as adept at is becoming artists, participating with Jesus Christ, loving what He loves, valuing what He values and embodying this such that it flows out of our being with out reservation or contrary thought.
I am concerned that we see the technical side of the faith as an end. When we are good at ______ (you fill in the blank) then we have arrived. I am increasingly convinced that this is a dangerous deception.
No matter how solid we are in our theology, our teaching, yes even our caring ministry, it is merely the foundation that enables true discipleship. The tasks of ministry should never be understood as what it means to be a Christian. Yes, a Christian does these things even as a violinist must expertly handle the bow, but bowing alone does not make music. In the hands of an artist the bow is merely a creative tool used to participate with the composer in creating music.
This is not to denigrate in any way the necessity of a quality bow any more than the technical competency needed to handle it well. It is to transcend above the tasks of music to enter into being that which the music flows from.