I recently had a conversation with an friend about surrender.
We were discussing the nature of good and evil. I believe that you don’t need to be a Christian, or religious, to be good. Nor does a particular religious identity diminish the capacity for evil.
The great biblical scholar Willi Marxsen, probably the last bible scholar also famous for theological ethics, argued that the real point of the Christ event, the faith of Jesus, is that He is the sign for taking action.
There are a couple easy objections. Such a view is a bit reductionistic. It’s as if someone told us, “do something.”
We could just as easily respond with “do what?”
“Just stand there.” “Look busy.” Or just dead silence.
I argued that we know God when we are active, taking risks, and creating. When Luther said “sin boldly,” he was stating that knowing the love of God allows us to make mistakes sometimes. Knowing God means also knowing your power. And it is going to be imperfect. If it were perfect, it would be God-like.
My friend’s response: and what about surrender? Sometimes it is precisely when we realize we do not have power that we are able to grow and become transformed by God. I can’t control everything. One cannot both surrender and have power.
Yet even surrendering is a creative act. And often we need to surrender over and over again. Surely, we do not need to be in control, because the Divine Affection is. But the debate between initiative and surrender conceals Christ’s deeper challenge.
Jesus doesn’t ask for action or surrender for their own sake, but because our lives are at stake: are we zombies or human beings? sometimes the choices we make deaden us; and other times it is through surrendering we become award of God’s glory. Christ wants us to recognize our shared humanity and its reflection of the grand transcendence around us.
It’s actually an old metaphysical problem. Are we the living dead? Are we puppets on a string? We we simply robots? Or are we alive? Can we take the risk of commitment? Can we take the risk to change? To whom to we surrender?
We act in our walking. And some times we will stand still and surrender to the enchanted glory that envelops us.