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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Levitas: The Weightlessness of God*

Back in the oldin' days, there was a term that was applied to a message or matter that carried great significance, power, or resulted in great effect. That word is gravitas. As you can see, it is the Latin word where we get "gravity". It carries the connotation of "heaviness" or "weightiness". Generally applied, it meant that whatever word spoken or experience felt had such an overwhelming impact that it "weighed" you down and was "heavy" on your mind. Today, you neither hear or see much gravitas anymore. You used to find it in the pulpit or in the lives solemnly and solely devoted to the sacred desk, or among the people who knew the "terror of the Lord", but this is not so. What we have today is what I call levitas. I tried looking it up in the dictionary, and I don't think it exists, so let me create it for this purpose. Levitas is diametrically opposed to gravitas. It represents "lightness" or "weightlessness." Interestingly enough, as mentioned earlier, "to make light" in the Bible literally means "to curse." It carries the same connotation as the English word "levity" which means "lack of steadiness" executed by excessive frivolity. It represents a minimum of force or pressure, something having little importance, significance - trivial. As Christians and bearers of his image (Christ in us, the hope of glory), we are called to represent him, to carry his message of reconciliation as ambassadors, to be sent into this world with same force and focus as he was for the pleasure of the Father. Yet I am concerned that what we have today is a serious case of levitas. From the pulpit to pew, from the front-shelf bookseller to CCM's Top 40, God is being shown to the world as weightless, and I am "weighed down" because of it. Christianity's substance has become fluff, and our pursuit has become flighty. Our words don't carry any weight, and our witness is without power or conviction. The tone has been set by our leaders, so I begin with them first. Pastors from the pulpit appeal more for laughter than they do repentance; applause than abandonment to self; movement down an aisle than movement to our knees and on our faces. The message is prefabricated and often canned from some else's sermon notes or a chapter from the latest best-seller because the pastor has little time to spend with God and in his Word because of a busy schedule administrating and running the CEO status. People therefore come to be entertained and to listen for the next cheesy joke; fear and trembling is forgotten and Holy Spirit conviction is a thing of the past. Once we have felt our ears been tickled, we go back for more. And in this days of myths and fables and storytelling, I yearn for the days of old where "soul-travail" was a reality and heart-wrenching messages brought us sinners low, not told us that we should have a good self-esteem. If God is weightless, then he is as good as dead in our culture - maybe worse. For the God that is seen and caricatured in our culture is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Paul, Peter, and John. Listen to their words; read about their lives; see the impact their lives made. This was real gravitas. Hear the passion of Edwards; read the unction in the sermons of Spurgeon; catch the missionary zeal of Brainerd. There was no levitas in them. They were not "hollow men". Their message did not result in laugher or a pat on the back and "Good job." And the blood of the martyrs which was the seedbed of the Church stands with history that our God is seen most beautifully and savored most extravagantly in the lives of those who daily experienced gravitas. So what will be said about this generation of Christians? What will history speak of us? We had the greatest amount of resources (money, time, talents, and Christian influence), and what did we do with them? Build a Christian subculture that insulates us from the real world and makes us happy? Purchase bestsellers that we cherish like a rabbit's foot? Erect stages and calendar schedules that will entertain us with our favorite musicians and conferences? I don't know, but I am hurting because of the levitas I see, and I will not get off this until gravitas is experienced in you and me. Let's not live lives that are without cost, without weight, without force, focus, or fire. We cannot look anymore to our leaders or our pop-culture for this - it must begin here . . . with me and with you. Heaven's waiting, and our world is perishing. As for me and my life . . . the way we finish this sentence will indicate how we finish our lives.


Anonymous Jimmy said...

I think we just don't understand. I don't, most days.

We just don't understand how wonderfully, achingly enormous it is, just this very idea of the existence of God, not to mention God Himself. It should be staggering, to stare into the endless blue bowl of the sky or its black night salted with stars... to see a newborn baby. Wiggle your own fingers and watch them move. Just think about this God, this Creator, about how terribly different He must be from you and I, to have created us and our entire existence and our universe ex nihilo. Our lives, tiny lives, floating on top of Time, as someone said.

And He has shown Himself to us, in fragments of His character, in His words, in His created world that we inhabit so blithely. This unthinkable, indescribable, unchanging Being, whose name is I Am. I Exist. All Is In Me. All Is Through Me.

He says to us, "Come, let us reason together," and we say to each other, "Come, let us go shopping." Or television-watching, or even church-going. All with such frivolity; even the church-going, as though it were another thing we have to do, no more important than out to eat or soccer practice or shopping trip.

I usually have to work on Sunday afternoons. I work in retail. And people come into the store, through my check out lane. Grumpy, bothered people, spending hundreds or thousands building bigger barns, as it were. Some of them must have been to church earlier, as they're dressed nicely, looking starched and pressed in their faces as well as their shirts and skirts. A lot of them look like they've had the life sucked out of them through their noses; but the thing that strikes me is that time after time I watch them (everyone, not just the church people) put down quantities of money that I would make in two or three weeks on things that could easily catch fire tomorrow.

I think you could say that many people's "levitas" mentality has to do with God and with their lives (which I feel are inextricably paired). Lives and days are spent pouring money and time into ourselves, or our possessions, both of which will soon be gone. Life has no gravity, no substance. God has no gravity in life, no hold of our hearts and minds.

He who dies with the most toys still dies. I don't want to leave toys behind, I want to live abundantly, like I know the terrible, loving God who holds life and death and burning sunsets in His hands.

6/01/2005 03:19:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Let me add to that, Jimmy, by saying that I think to most people, including Christians, that God is a utility. The time and energy spend around God is that he might work for us, on our behalf, answers our prayers like a cosmic vending machine when we have inserted our nickles and dimes. His exposure on us is minimal, and his imprint is vague because we have not come to him for the sake of him and him alone. Then and only then can we be set free from the plague of levitas today.

6/01/2005 03:28:00 PM


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