‘…There’s glory for you!’ ‘I don’t know what you mean by glory,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t…till I tell you. I meant, “There’s a nice knock-down argument for you!” ‘ But glory doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected. When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’ So wrote Lewis Carroll in his, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
The word glory is complex in its meaning, and not least in the Bible and its reference to the glory of God. In a Bible text that has been foundational for my ministry we read: We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
Dr. Ashley Null, whose work involves high-level research into the life and work of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, makes this comment about Cranmer’s understanding of humanity: What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies…’
In an interview in Sydney in 2001, he further noted that Cranmer said, ‘The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God… If left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.’
Why we don’t believe. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul tells us: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
While some say that the god of this world is a reference to the powers of evil, it makes more sense to understand it as, ‘the god who consists of this age’. To become preoccupied with the material things of this world blinds us to the spiritual realities of the next. Malcolm Muggeridge, a former editor of Punch magazine observed, men and women are trapped ‘in a tiny dark dungeon of the ego… So imprisoned and enslaved, we are cut off from God and from the light of his love.’
HOW THEN DOES ANYONE COME TO BELIEVE?
Surely we are all in the same boat as far as spiritual things are concerned – including the apostle Paul. We are all spiritually blind.
2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us what God has done: For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s imagery here is a reference to Genesis 1:3: And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. It is a powerful and encouraging image. Turning from unbelief to belief involves an act of divine initiative as awesome and as powerful as the act of creation. God says to our hearts, ‘Let there be light’ and there is light – and from that moment a new world begins.
We cannot truly love God unless he supernaturally changes our hearts. In the opening prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer there is a Prayer for Purity where we pray: Almighty God … Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord.
To quote Dr. Ashley Null again: ‘For Cranmer, the glory of God is to love the unworthy – that’s Cranmer’s fundamental theological tenet…’ The sign of God’s mercy in our life is when we respond to the news of God’s mercy found in the Lord Jesus Christ. In knowing Jesus, we see the glory of God and the light of his truth. We see meaning and purpose to our life. We experience the hope of the glory yet to come.
Furthermore, as we pray that God might be merciful to our friends, and as we play our part in introducing them to Jesus Christ, we can have every expectation that some at least will come to see the light of God in Jesus Christ. We need not despair. God never forgets his promises.
© John G. Mason