I’ve been reading We belong together: The meaning of fellowship by Bruce Milne lately. Its content is very… accurate. He writes some absolutely fantastic stuff, but at the same time it is one of the most boring books I’ve read in a long time. He has a rather academic style—by which I mean that most paragraphs average 2-3 references to bible passages. This kind of careful, precise writing can be really dry, but he does write some extremely challenging stuff on God’s clear commands for us to look out for each other.
Anyhow, I came across this passage in the book, which echoes some stuff I’ve been thinking (and posting) about lately:
It is in this light that we perhaps need to put a question mark against some holiness teaching which sets forth the Christian ideal in terms of what one might describe as ‘the omnicompetent individual’. By this view the man or woman we are all to strive to become is an individual of all-round spiritual competence, who is able to cope with any pressure, to meet every obstacle, to deal with every situation, and to experience a life of unbroken victory over sin and Satan. One wonders whether this ‘image’ of the Christian life does not owe much more to Christian biographers than to the bible. One recognizes immediately that this ideal has unquestionably produced in the past some remarkable examples of Christian character; but it has equally driven many others to a lonely struggle ending in despair and disillusionment, or to what is possibly worse, the hypocrisy of a double-standard life, whereby we struggle to maintain the omnicompetent image in public and know ourselves to be something very different behind the scenes. The biblical ideal by contrast appears much more that of the onmicompetent Christian fellowship, where in the total life of the whole body the weaknesses and limitations of each are taken account of and complemented by the strength of the whole.*
Of course, as my father-in-law says, whenever you point the finger at someone you’re pointing three fingers back at yourself. I fear I have been guilty at many times of cultivating an omnicompetent image. Whether I did so consciously or not is irrelevant—the damage to others resulting from my lack of humility is the same. For those of you who know me personally, I would ask you to help keep me accountable in this area.
* Bruce Milne, We belong together: The meaning of fellowship, Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England, 1978, pp. 76-77.