9.12.09

I just think that songwriters should think about what the words teach, that's all.

There is this cute little song that my kids learned to sing at church last week. It has little actions to it and the tune is catchy. The lyrics go like this:

I wanna be like you
I wanna be like you Jesus (Repeat ad nauseum)

Less of me,
This is my prayer.

More of you...
(something, something blah, blah, back to chorus.)
I made them stop singing it. Because the words bother me so much. They reflect a common and dangerous misconception in the church that irritates the snot out of me.

It comes from the place in the gospels where John the Baptist says, "He must increase and I must decrease." John 3:30

A critical reading of this passage makes it obvious that he's referring to the scope of his ministry vs that of Jesus. However, not as many Christians are critical readers as would be desirable.
We get people praying, sincerely, believing it a good thing to ask for, that they would decrease, that Christ would increase in them. We get silly songs that have a whole chorus of "more of you and less of me". It's like they envision their attainment of Christ likeness as a final emptying of all that makes them human, of their very will, so that the Holy Spirit can move through them as it wills and they will be perfect.

But that's not how it works, and there is no place in scripture that actually suggests that it does. It does say that God inhabits our humanity, that God fills us with His Spirit. Nowhere does God empty. ALWAYS GOD FILLS. It is in the being filled with God's presence that we first become become truly alive, truly human, and truly ourselves.

So I won't be letting my children sing a little silly Sunday school song that teaches them to expect anything else. For it is always through our filled up humanity that God reaches to touch this world. It is always through our will in conscious cooperation with his that he changes and transforms. To want to be emptied is a cop out, a desire to avoid the work of sanctification.

To desire to be filled is to ask for the power to move through our humanness, to participate in it's redemption and to become true sons and daughters of the most high; fully human, fully redeemed.

I told them they can sing "Fill me up" instead of "Empty me" if they want to keep singing it.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; {and} that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:15-19

8 comments:

  1. This post reminds me of John Donne's sonnet "Batter my heart, three-personed God..." He asks God to take him with violence, using metaphors of war and rape - but at the same time he also uses the imperative voice, rejecting the verbs and metaphors that the Bible uses to describe how God does work. Part of the meaning of the poem, I think, is that by pleading for God to demolish his will, the poet is copping out of the hard work of training his will to conform to God's. That, at least, is what my students got out of it - quite interesting, I thought, for a totally unchurched group.

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  2. Love your thoughts on this. I so agree with you.
    The result of this thinking is a bunch of insipid, diluted people walking around not sure of who God created them to be. A church of clones all trying to be the same and yet we are the pinnacle of His creation and creativity! I love how He has created us all uniquely. I can best serve Him and touch the world by being the best ME I can be. Not by being the best "Christian" (term used loosely).

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  3. Anonymous7:56 AM

    A very thought-provoking post. And in many ways, I was going, "Amen, sister!" But there is one caviat that I would add - When we are abiding in Christ (John 15:5), we are completely FILLED (not emptied) as you pointed out, BUT when we are walking by the flesh (Romans 6-8), we DO need to be emptied of self - the self that is choosing to meet needs without God. In this moment, we need to be emptied of self and filled with Christ. Our flesh can NEVER look better, or be improved (e.g., if you are a manipulator, your only hope is walking in the Spirit, not working hard at making your flesh - that part of you that wants to work apart from God - manipulate better.) All this to say, I went to bed pondering these things and worshiping God who brought Scripture to mind. Thanks for bringing the conversation up! Karen in Nevada (karenmarieberger@yahoo.com)

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  4. Like your thot on this one... I've sometimes thought of this but could not quite find words to put it. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Ive never thought of it this way before..but now I have to say I agree. God makes us uniquely US for a reason, not so that we would become un-us as Christians.

    Thank you for this post :)

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  6. Thought-provoking...

    Perhaps it is more of an "empty me" as in losing our selves *to be* filled with Him. I know I have to constantly deny myself, die to myself, if I am to have Him reside in me.

    Tomato tamoto?

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  7. Sara-Mae-If we had to be able to empty ourselves first in order to be filled would any of us have the power to do it?

    It is the spirit of God in us that changes us into people who can make unselfish choices, rather than selfish ones, who can choose a harder and better path, rather than an easy and self indulgent one. If I understand correctly this is what you mean by dying to self, yes?

    We must be filled with God's presence, or this isn't possible. I don't think it's accurate to describe the subsequent ways that we are changed as being emptied, but as being set free from sin and the empty uselessness within us being filled up with purpose and love.

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  8. This reminds me of a song that was sung in my childhood "I'm going to put my Jesus in a little red box and close it up and never let him out again". I think it was supposed to represent a child's heart but why not just say that.

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