Archbishop Cranmer is on form today. He has posted a piece on the “Human Ken Doll”, Rodrigo Alves, and contemporary culture’s worship of youth, physical perfection, and superficial thought. In his characteristic concern for our souls, His Grace reminds us all that we are made in the image of God, that God has called us to exercise righteous judgment in the earth. Judgment is a facet of the law, and Christ and Paul taught us that the way to fulfil the law is to practice godly love. The Greek term is agape, translated into Latin as caritas, in contrast to the normal Latin word for love, amor, which is nearly equivalent to the Greek term eros.
Humans are social creatures – we so want to be connected with one another, to love and be loved (not necessarily in that order) by one another. This is natural: to be made in the image of God means to live in community, extending God’s rule from heaven to the earth. We were always meant to function collaboratively with God and with each other. But God’s ways have been perverted on the earth through the agency of Satan and the Watchers and through the agency of man. Pride demands worship from others and loneliness demands company. When company has rules for admission, in our desperation we bend to those rules: thus the cult of beauty enforces its will through peer pressure. The call from the cult: “Join us or die in the wilderness.”
Nor is the Church immune to this disease; the Church is composed of sinners on the path to holiness – at any given stage before perfection, the old temptations have some traction. The Scriptures do not say that accepting Christ means losing the lust of our hearts; James the Apostle tells us to “resist the Devil”. This is an active task: it requires will and perseverance and the moral cognisance to recognise what is evil and to reject it.
When the Scripture tells us that the old man has been crucified with Christ but that we must daily be crucified, it describes vividly the feeling of loss involved in resisting sin. In saying no to some action or attitude we are letting something go, letting it slide into the category of things that never were. That is a kind of death. Because we want sinful things – even when we know we should not -that death is painful; it causes us – foolishly – to mourn. In another vivid image, the author of Hebrews describes this process as chastisement and says rather bluntly and obviously that no one enjoys chastisement, but that it is good for us. The joy comes afterward in the moment of victory and rest when we can see what chastisement has wrought and no longer feel the draw of sin, no longer believing its lies.
Chastisement is a part of growth. The chastisement that the Church is experiencing as a whole now is to teach it valuable lessons. The shaking of the current order is meant to call sinners to repentance, to cause the Church to remember that God – not the world – is our end, and to wake us up, creating renewed zeal to preach the Gospel. Those who will be most effective in that task are those who have rejected the world’s falsehoods, including the cult of beauty, and who have given themselves wholly to God and His service. These are the consecrated, the holy ones.