Friday, February 14, 2014

Fidei Defensor

2Timothy 1:8  Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9  who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10  but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11  For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12  and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13  Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14  Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

“Hold to the standard ... guard the treasure”: these are military terms, used by the writer of 2 Timothy to encourage the Jesus-follower to stand firm against anything threatening the gospel of Jesus Christ. The student is challenged to become a defender of the faith. Sadly the term “Defender of the Faith” (Fidei defensor  /feminine: Fidei defensatrix) has become one of the subsidiary  titles of the British monarchy, and has historically had more to do with using Christian faith to prop up the power of the Monarch than with upholding true Christ-like standards of teaching and behaviour. At its worst, defending the faith resulted in Crusading Knights rampaging across Europe and North Africa in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, killing people in the name of Jesus.

Perhaps we can recover the term for ourselves, and become defenders of the faith as originally intended – by living our lives according to the “holy calling” of Jesus. The writer of 2 Timothy suggests that this has nothing to do with power and might, and everything to do with suffering and humiliation. This is a life which risks reputation, status and ambition for “the testimony about our Lord” (2 Ti 1:8). Let us rediscover our calling to be defenders of the faith through humility and love.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Words: Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spir­it­u­al Songs, 1707.
Charles Wes­ley re­port­ed­ly said he would give up all his other hymns to have writ­ten this one.

The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
The Rewards of Ministry
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 84.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.   

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