Kingdom Voices: Karl Barth

The Advent devotional I read yesterday was by Karl Barth.  I found it to be both absolutely fascinating and at times, somewhat confusing.  And yet, there was a section that jumped out at me and just didn’t let go.  Since it was most likely an excerpt from a greater work, I cannot claim to fully understand it, but I loved these ideas of fully communing with God as we go throughout our life:

“Believing is not something as special and difficult or even unnatural as we often suppose.  Believing means that what we listen to, we listen to as God’s speech.  What moves us is not just our own concern, but precisely God’s concern.  What causes me worry, that is God’s worry, what gives me joy is God’s joy, what I hope for is God’s hope.  In other words, in all that I am, I am only a party to that which God thinks and does.  In all that I do it is not I, but rather God who is important.  Imagine if everything were brought into this great and proper connection, if we were willing to suffer, be angry, love and rejoice with God, instead of always wanting to make everything our own private affair, as if we were alone.

Just imagine if we were to adapt everything that gratifies and moves us into the life and movement of God’s kingdom, so that we personally are, so to speak, taken out of play.  Simply love!  Simply hope!  Simply rejoice!  Simply strive!  But in everything, do it no longer from yourself, but rather from God!  Everything great that is hidden in you can indeed be great only in God…

We must once and for all give up trying to be self-made individuals.  Let us cease preaching by ourselves, being right by ourselves, doing good by ourselves, being sensible by ourselves, improving the world by ourselves.  God wants to do everything, certainly through us and with us and never without us; but our participation in what he does must naturally originate and grow out of his power, not ours.  O, how we could then speak with one another!  For whatever does not grow out of God produces smoke, not fire.  But that which is born of God overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4).”

I very much want my life to be like that.  Like Barth, I have a vision of being “taken out of play,” so that I am simply God’s instrument.  That is my picture of dying to self. I’m not sure, of course, exactly what that looks like in my life, but I liked Barth’s ideas.

Quote taken from:

Barth, Karl.  “To Believe.”  Watch for the Light:  Readings for Advent and Christmas.  Farmington, PA:  Plough Publishing House, 2001. 137-139.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you so much for this post. Great passage! I especially liked these lines:

    Everything great that is hidden in you can indeed be great only in God … . We must once and for all give up trying to be self-made individuals.

    Ain’t that the truth? My “self-making” looks like those attempts at making things out of clay when I was a kid, and everything ended up being labled an ashtray. A lopsided, lumpy ashtray.

    So glad God can make more of me than I could ever imagine doing for myself.

    Tim

    Reply

  2. Posted by kevin g. on December 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

    hey Kim,
    great article. i was talking to my dad the other day and our discussion led to talking about the love of God, love of Christ kinda thing. we often wonder how Christ could have lived the perfect life while on earth – was it because he was deity and that side of him kept him from sinning – that does not jive with me – it would seem to cheapen the perfection if there was not truly a struggle due to his deity. our love discussion led me to think that that was how he did it. he loved his Father so much, he was totally focused on the mission at hand, he was TOTALLY selfless. what greater example of love can be shown than to be totally selfless in his commitment to the Father. can we then say that selflessness leads to or even equals perfection? if so, can we achieve it today? what do you think?

    Reply

    • Mr. Gardner,

      I absolutely love those questions, not because I have the slightest idea what the answer is, but because I have asked them myself over and over. I have been thinking for a couple of years now (seriously) about the point of the Sermon on the Mount. When I really sit down and read it, it seems to be impossible. Jesus even says plainly in Matt. 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”! So I have to ask myself as a Bible-believing Christian, does Jesus really expect us to live up to these standards? Does He really expect us to turn the other cheek and to give up not only our cloak but our tunic as well? Does He really expect perfect love from us? If so, then how do we ever reach that? If not, then why did He say it? The answer I always hear is that we will never attain perfection on earth, and that makes sense to me. It seems so far away. But when I read the Bible, it seems to plainly state that we should–that we are even EXPECTED–to reach higher levels of perfection in Christ than we even dare to dream. John writes in 1 John 2:1, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But IF anybody does sin…” I always read that and say, “If?? Of course we are going to sin.” But again, why did John say it like that? Along those lines, when I read Romans 8 about being controlled by God’s Spirit…well, the picture it paints to me is of a life that I am not currently fully living, if I’m honest. It sounds so heretical to say that we can achieve perfection, and yet, when I read the Bible and put aside the assumption that I’m going to be a horrible sinner until I die, the Scriptures do seem to say that I should reach some pretty high levels of communion with God in this life. They seem to say that I can and should DIE to myself on a daily basis…and isn’t the greatest love to die for our friends? (1 John something:)?)

      I don’t know. I’m rambling, and my thoughts are not organized enough right now to pull out all the different Scriptures I’ve read that have put me on this thought path. All I can say is that when I sit down and read through the New Testament while taking off as many “lenses” and assumptions as I can, it paints a radical, daring picture of what the Christian life looks like. That Scriptural testimony jives with the voice in my soul (God’s Spirit?) that I hear whispering to me, “There is MORE to this Christian life than you think. There is MORE to be had.” This is kind of a silly example, but my dad just posted a video to his facebook page showing people doing all kinds of seemingly miraculous physical things, things that you just wouldn’t think humans are even designed to do. They are doing things that we would probably consider “impossible” if we didn’t see them with our own eyes. Seeing that video made me think of us being created “in the image of God” and it made me wonder if we don’t sell ourselves and our potential short. Now, not all of us are able to do those physical feats…but we WERE all created to have a relationship with God. Perhaps we were created for more spiritual depth, more communion with Him than we think. Perhaps with God’s Spirit inside of us, our spiritual potential is way higher than we assume. Maybe assuming that we are going to be sinners until we die shows a lack of faith in the power of God’s Spirit to transform us.

      Okay, I’m going to stop now. I really could keep rambling indefinitely, though, b/c I think your question puts a finger on the whole purpose of this blog. I see this picture in Scripture of what we can be, and I want it. And yet, sometimes I wonder if the picture I’m seeing is even possible. I don’t know that it is, but I’d like to find out. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but I’ll just leave it there for now. Anyway, thanks for getting me thinking! Love you!

      Reply

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