Friday, January 07, 2011

What's it Worth?

Over the Christmas season this year, I have noticed the quality of many of the hymns and carols we sing. Perhaps this is because of my involvement in our community choir, or maybe I'm just maturing. Both the music and the lyrics to many of these songs is profound. This fact is set in relief by the many inane seasonal songs. Even good songs are undone by a cheesy presentation. But that's another subject altogether.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a particularly well-done presentation of O Holy Night (thanks, Jackie). I must admit that this is far from my favorite Christmas song as it is hard to do well as a solo and falls flat as a congregational song. It is much loved and so oft performed. So be it. Our friend did an excellent job - she sang it expressively and with great ability.

I have been reflecting on a line from that song since Christmas Eve: "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth." I was just thinking about it again this morning, so I thought I would blog about it even thought it is two weeks late.

What does it mean that the soul felt its worth when Christ appeared? Is it that Christ came to show us how valuable our souls are to God? Is it the Incarnation itself that made The Soul - the individual soul of Jesus - realize a divine ideal? Is it some of each, or something else entirely? This song was written and translated in the late 19th Century, so I can't ask the author. I did a Google search and found some flaky stuff, but no satisfying answers as to authorial intent.

What I've been thinking about in relation to this line has to do with self-identity. The longer I live, the more I realize how important it is to have the right doctrine of God and the corresponding right view of ourselves.

With many conservative Christians, I have been not only concerned but rather dismissive of "self-image talk" as it too often dismisses God and inflates the self. Truth matters, and the truth is that by nature, we are all sinners justly under the wrath of a Holy God. The appearance of God-in-flesh in the person of Jesus Christ into this sin-soaked world - the world pining in sin and error - is monumental.

John 3:16 is not so amazing because the world is lovable, but because of the rage against God in the world before the coming of Christ. The light came to the world, but the world did not comprehend it. They snuffed out God's light because it was unbearable - it exposed the darkness of their hearts. We are no better.

Christ's coming - and His substitutionary death - is God's love writ large, to put it mildly. God did not send Christ to fan the spark of human goodness into a flame by being an example of love for us, Christ came because there was no other way for sinners to be reconciled to God other than the death of His Son in our place. Human evil and sin - the curse of the Fall - is so profound and so comprehensive that there is no redemption outside of death and resurrection.

Regarding the "soul felt its worth" line, I think that the soul of Jesus is the best meaning. Jesus Christ is the new Adam, come to be the Ultimate Human and Divine Saviour in one person. That God would condescend to become human in this fallen world is the greatest realization of the soul's worth. Not what the soul was worth before the Incarnation, but what the soul became in the Incarnation. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, but Jesus Christ IS God in human flesh - fully God and fully God. The human soul cannot go higher than that.

The good news is that the implications of this elevation of the soul are not limited to Christ alone. The benefits of this incarnation are available to all who believe in Him and confess Him as Lord. The New Testament uses language to describe the identity of the believer in Christ that is shocking. It almost seems blasphemous, but it is God's Word.

Consider this from the Apostle Peter:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4

And this from Paul:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

By extension, the worth that The Soul felt when it was possessed by the Eternal Son of God is OURS by faith in Christ who is our crucified Saviour and risen Lord. This makes Christmas really, really significant! Now in our identity, we must never confuse our status and identity IN Christ with BEING divine. Christ is Creator, we are creatures. However, the possession of God's fullness, being partakers of the divine nature and our adoption as the sons of God are mind blowing implications of faith in Christ. This inheritance is ours as a gift from God because of the finished work of Christ in His life, death and resurrection. This is love. This is mercy and grace!

These truths regarding the Christian's identity in Christ are foundational to discipleship, counseling, dealing with suffering and every other aspect of our lives. Our identity in Christ is the fountain of our joy, our hope, our faith and our love. If God has loved us like this when we were His enemies, then how should we love others?

Have you though about what your soul is worth lately?


Jim said...

Just a thought - my soul is worthless without Christ. And the redemption of my soul is more valuable than gaining the whole world. So the worth of my soul is entirely related to Christ and His redemptive work.

stauf46 said...

Amen to that. Thanks for the comment, Jim!

Cindy Marsch said...

Really enjoyed this post! A number of years ago I translated *Oh Holy Night* from the French and was pleasantly surprised at the theology in the original!

My translation may not be the best, but here it is:

Midnight, believers, it is the solemn hour
When God as man came down to us.
He has erased all the stains we have from Adam,
And with the Father He takes away our curse.
The whole world waits in trembling desperation
For this great night when our Salvation comes!
People, to your knees!
Hear of Him, your great Deliverer!
Noel! Noel! Behold Redeemer, Lord!
Noel! Noel! Behold Redeemer, Lord!

Our faith becomes the glowing light that guides us
Unto the cradle of our infant King,
As in the past, the brilliant star above them
Showed them the way, wise men from afar.
The King of kings is laid in lowly manger:
The strength of men laid low by humble pow'r.
Fall down before His glory everlasting
Behold your Savior, bow down before Him now.
Behold your Savior, bow down before Him now.

Our great Redeemer has broken all the shackles,
The earth is free, and the heav'ns opened now.
He sees a brother where once was born a slave,
Love joins with him who once knew only chains.
What shall we give to thank Him for His mercy?
For us He was born, he suffered, and He died.
Stand up, you people--Sing now of your deliverance.
Noel! Noel! Sing your Redeemer, Lord!
Noel! Noel! Sing your Redeemer, Lord!

Copyright 2002-2003, Cindy Marsch

stauf46 said...

Thanks for sharing that, Cindy. It is rich. Quite different than the English, but the translator had to make it scan.

It appears that I would have to ask the translator about that soul worth line, not the original author.

John K said...

Hi Pastor Terry,
I love Cindy's translation. It seems the, "... soul felt its worth" was basically the English translator's original idea.
But what does, "felt" mean. I sort of take the meaning as "realized its worth", so I see it somewhat along the same line as Jim. Only by the Holy Spirit can we realize the worth (or worthlessness) of our soul apart from Christ. If he had not appeared, the world would still be blind in that area.

Happy New Year!