The challenge of any community is that we all have ways of being that cause tremendous pain to others. Our own assumptions of what is due to us or just our unconscious drives for love, affirmation, and satisfaction can make life unbearable to others. We sin both by demanding what others cannot give and by not giving what we never even thought of giving. Yet the real pain caused by our inattention and habitual desire is serious. This is why the only real community that can exist is a Christian community. A real community must be sustained by forbearing the pain caused by others. We must be able to say, “This pain I charge not to them, because God has not. In fact, God has not charged to me the pain I am causing them, but has become the great bearer of pain, making forgiveness possible. And since human forgiveness and forbearance is always responsive to God’s forgiving, my forbearing this pain is simply doing less than what God has done for me in Jesus.”
The video below is Yann Dall’Aglio, “Love–You’re Doing it Wrong.” It’s really worth a watch. It touches on the problem that is created as modern man has lost his sense of significance from being situated within traditional roles. A man or woman could feel valued, loved, and belonging as a son, or a wife, or a citizen. But in our day, when traditional roles have been cast aside, we are all part of a continual race to be valued or loved, what he calls “Seduction Hysteria.” We acquire “seduction capital” like clothing, possessions, or internet presence to garner admiration. He says,
“We all pretend to have an idol; we pretend to be an idol for someone else, but actually we are all imposters, a bit like a man on the street who appears totally cool and indifferent, while he has actually anticipated and calculated that all eyes are on him. I think that becoming aware of this general imposture would ease our love relationships. It is because I want to be loved from head to toe, justified in my every choice, that the seduction hysteria exists. Therefore I want to appear perfect so that someone will love me.
What I find particularly fascinating is the 30 seconds that he devotes to his solution, self-mockery. He says, “For a couple who is no longer sustained, supported by the constraints of tradition, I believe that self-mockery is one of the best means for the relationship to endure.”
(As the kids might say) WHAT. A. LETDOWN.
Hasn’t it occurred to him that self-mockery is itself just another means of acquiring love through humor. Self-mockery is seduction capital. (Perhaps this is obvious only to a religious person, having seen countless examples of humility being used as seduction capital?)
It seems to me that a better answer, a better escape from this seduction hysteria is gospel oriented covenantal relationships in which people’s identities are formed around the notion of being “beloved of God” and find their purpose in his mission.
One of the really valuable elements of the theological turn in the resurgent Calvinist movement is the application of the theological implications of the gospel in preaching. I take it that the point of preaching on this view is a sort of interpretive conditioning for the congregant, aimed at helping one to see reality rightly. The Spirit works through the gospel to convince me of the truth about who I am, what Christ is for me, and what I am in him. This sort of rehearsal of the implications of the gospel is really significant for everyday life because these truths form the background for how we perceive mundane realities from struggles at work to dealing with children (it deals with our hearts).
And yet, I have a growing concern about truncating application to theological implications, namely, that it truncates biblical authority to the general orientation of the Christian mind. If preaching mostly pertains to theological generalities, there are a whole host of significant issues that have no place for being considered theologically in the church. Issues like global politics, economics, education, psychology, or even technology have no possibility of being addressed with theological nuance because there is no platform for talking about them. Thus, practically, the Bible’s authority does not extend to them.
I think the worry from preachers is that one does not preach on “economics” because to do so is to step too far into the theological debatable or speculative. Without commenting on the merit of this argument for preaching, it is at least worth noting that this avoidance of the debatable or speculative has the practical effect of fostering terrible thinking about these issues in the church.