Journey: Going Down!

Read: The Spirit of Service

A long time ago, Henri Nouwen introduced me to what he called, “the selfless way of Christ,” what McLaren refers to in this chapter as downward mobility.  I have not found any concept in the Christian spiritual life (at least as it exists in North America) more difficult to practice than this one.

For one thing, we are programmed for success in our culture.  The media, in all its forms bombards us with the “bold and the beautiful” in a dazzling array of manifestations that move from Congress to Cancun.  The Christian faith too has been co-opted by its own celebrity syndrome.  All this combines to create an upward-mobility environment we hardly even realize we are in.

And of course, the reason we are so clueless is that this environment feeds egotism, where the “me getting ahead” agenda is a social and religious priority.  Internally and externally we are just not poised to handle a chapter on downward mobility. 

McLaren’s x-ray paragraphs about “here’s what would happen if” we lived a downwardly-mobile life lay us naked and exposed before the God with whom we have to deal–the very God who incarnated downward mobility (e.g. Philippians 2:5-11).

We would all be done for (i.e. victims of pride and strangers to grace) except for one thing–we are God’s beloved, children of a heavenly Father who knows in advance that “I-Me” is the American Idol–a God who has no “last straw” in either patience or willingness to bring us back to our senses.

The Spirit works through occasions as ordinary as reading McLaren’s chapter, and gently keeps saying over and over, “This is the way.  Walk in it.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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