Yielding To Christianity

Patricia Hofer


Continuum of consciousness explored in Living Strong.

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Christ’s blessing separates “the sheep from the goats.”

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (NIV Matt. 25:34)

This invitation occurs in one of Jesus’ more picturesque analogies. In the metaphor, the people of the world are separated, “one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” The sheep are invited to sit on the right hand of the King and blessed. The goats are cast out for their selfishness. A little research on goats and sheep makes this a more universal and truly helpful comparison.

Goats are pushy and competitive from birth, even when domesticated. Besides being assertive and confrontational, they are independent and can climb over and under fences. Sheep, by contrast, have gotten more and more defenseless as they have been domesticated, with less agility. Because their safety comes from flocking together, they don’t like to be alone. And they are taught to follow from birth.

The problem for Christians, and all of humanity, is that we tend to appreciate the goat more than the sheep! One need only look at our Lord’s beatitudes to recognize the challenges we face (Matt. 5:1-10). Being meek gets us walked on. (Not surprisingly, the English synonym for meek is sheepish). Being pure of heart causes others to look at us dismissively and uncomfortably. Poverty of spirit and mercy get taken advantage of. And it isn’t often that our attempts at peace making are appreciated.

That Jesus commended these behaviors shows clearly, at least to me, that the Master was inviting us to a life other than the natural, goatish one that we’re presently living—to a life “prepared for us “since the creation of the world.” That is the blessing, the inheritance Christ brings!

Christ throws out the “strong man”

“… I think we all of us know, as a matter of practical experience, that there is something within us, behind our emotions and behind our wishes, an independent self, that, after all, decides everything and controls everything.” (Hannah Whitall Smith, A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, 80)

That inner “independent self” is the part of ourselves that no one ever gets to see, the part we never share. And yet, as surprising as it might seem to some, I’ve learned to cherish that part of myself. Why? Because that’s where Christ lives.

The Way that Jesus shows us actually takes root within that inner self. In Mark, after his comments about a house or kingdom “divided against itself,” Jesus talks about binding or tying up “the strong man” (Mark 3: 24, 27). And my experience is that it is in our heart, in the self that no else ever sees, that this “strong man” operates.

For example, during the many years that I struggled to love more and to judge less, I made very little progress. My natural selfish ego was much more interested in asserting itself than in focusing on the needs of others. At a moment of utter despair and total self-abandonment, however, the Saviour took over. He indeed bound “the strong man” that kept me self-focused and unloving. By so doing, he freed my Christ spirit, the part that cares for others and moves with compassion.

Denominational believing can often seem to imply that consecration is something external, an outward rejection of worldly pleasures and motives. But the battleground, the “house divided,” is actually in that innermost self. When we surrender to the Lord there, our actions take care of themselves.

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