“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In his Dialogs of Socrates, Plato popularized the famous Greek aphorism, “Know thyself” . The saying had been around for a long time even in his day although it is uncertain with whom it originated. One of the insights into this saying that Plato pens in the Dialogs is this; people appear ridiculous when they know more about things than they do themselves.
Those of us who were born in the post-war era, and especially our children, have grown up in an atmosphere of unparalleled technological innovation. I am old enough to remember, on visits as a young boy to Southwestern Minnesota, seeing relatives speaking on an old crank handle wooden telephone. Today I carry a cell phone. I completed four years of college and four more at the seminary, never saw a computer and actually had to read books. All our work was hammered out on a typewriter. Today I work on a computer and do some reading on a Kindle. You get the picture. We are rich in gadgets, in things.
The promise in all of this gadgeteering is that life is supposed to be better. I’m not convinced. Just thinking about all the hours I have spent dealing with computer problems is enough to make me long for the simplicity of a typewriter and the reliability of holding a book in my hand. There is that. But I also think the proliferation of things has driven us farther away from one another and from ourselves, in spite of all the fawning over the latest gadget and ‘social media’. Many people I talk to, young and old, seem to feel the same way.
God has created us with those most basic of endowments, body and mind. To make the most of these, to be myself is the first business of living. All the gadgets in the world are no substitute for a clear knowledge of who I am and what I can do, where my life’s energies and resources may be applied to best effect. And although we prop up our lives with endless amounts of gadgets and the knowledge of a million obscurities we often find it hard, even impossible. Knowing myself is easier said than done.
When Jesus was asked about the essential business of the human being His answer was unequivocal; “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.” There is nothing here about things. Apart from love, all our scrambling after knowledge and things does make us look rather foolish. Apart from love, our scrambling after knowledge and things can drive us beyond foolishness into the most unspeakable evils. An integrated, authentic human life is only possible when love is the center. And that is our dilemma.
In Christ Jesus God has closed the distance between my lovelessness and His mercy. For the Christian, to be in Christ is to be brought to rest in the knowledge that I am known by God, knowledge that is given as faith, hope and love. But of these three gifts love is the greatest. For it is God’s inestimable love that integrates my mind and powers, if only dimly for now, that I may know and be known authentically in the loving of God and my neighbor as myself.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”