Thursday, 30 April 2015

On glory

I've been thinking about glory lately. Thinking about how as a Christian, I've sort of got a good working definition of grace and mercy and love and obedience and discipline (I've been quoting my discipline one to myself a bit lately-discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you don't feel like doing it), but I don't have a good working definition of glory. What is glory anyway?

Possibly I got on to this from deciding to listen to Keith Green. Yes I know, I am late to everything, including experiencing Keith Green. I only finished Pride and Prejudice for the first time this year. So what. Anyway, I recognised a song from my childhood, with the line 'and when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown, for my reward is giving glory to you'.

We're agreed that his hair was a wonder, right?

So there's phrases like 'glory to God in the highest'. And in the book of John, Jesus talks about people seeking personal glory, not like it's a good thing. And then says "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My father, who you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me'. So I guess you can't glorify yourself?

And then Jesus says "This is to my father's glory, that you bear fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples" (that's John too). And (to God) "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do". So glory is something achieved by actions?

And then, there's Stephen in Acts, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, looks up and sees the glory of God, and Jesus at his right hand. How do you see the glory of God? Is that just a way of saying he saw 'glorious God'? Can you describe what glorious looks like?

Romans says 'we glory in our sufferings'. And that we glory in Christ Jesus.

Glory is mentioned a whole lot in the bible, for something I haven't managed to wrap my head around yet.
But it looks like we give glory to God and do things for his glory. Glory belongs to God.

Which I guess leads me to my working definition. All my definitions are works in progress, by the way, because I keep learning, and because a quick bible search shows me that on the subject of glory, I have a lot more paying attention to do. Don't hold me to anything (except truth); I'm not trying to be ultimately definitive here. Just helpful to my brain.

Still, a working definition is necessary and helpful, because it helps me to apply meaning to 'glory' when reading about it, and helps me to apply an action to it. Until now 'glory' has sort of held a vague-mystical-holy-heavenly meaning. But now I think, glory is when God gets what is due to him.

Which I think is most interesting, because my faith in Jesus is chiefly (at least initially) about avoiding what is due to me. It's why I had a working meaning for grace and mercy quite early on.
But glory-that's when God gets what is due to him. Praise to God. Obedience to God. Trust in God. All of that is glory to God.

Which is why the quote attributed to St. Iranaeus (though apparently the original Latin is slightly different but let's not make things more complicated than they need to be for now) 'the glory of God is man fully alive' might not be a bad guide, if man fully alive, is man in line with God. The glory of God is man giving God his due.

So it turns out Keith Green was on to something. Giving glory to God is rewarding, because (in my experience) when I give God what is due to him, obey him, trust him, praise him, I benefit, in all the ways that seem a bit bewildering and limitedly-explainable to someone who hasn't believed like I do-the peace, the assurance, the direction, the connection. All a bit vague and mystical, like I thought glory was. It turns out these things are worth exploring.

Note: I am totally not a theologian. I just think, and I thought that writing my thoughts down would prove, at least to myself, that my mind is not entirely vacuous. Although mostly it is. 

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