The Greatest Lump of Coal

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Commentary

[NOTE: The following is not yet edited; it’s a first go at wrangling my thoughts. Call it meditation.]
I am slowing working my way through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As I do so, I’m trying to extract principles that apply in the context of my own life. I ask myself, “If Paul were writing to fellow Christians in the United States of America in 2019, how would he frame the argument? Would the motivations of people who are drawn to political poles be called into question by Paul’s arguments? Do we base our righteousness on identification with lesser things?”

This morning, I was in verse 10 of the first chapter: “or am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I asked myself, “Do I take sides in a perishing system because I want to please man, to feel righteous based on the ideas I hold?”

I thought about Paul’s pre-salvation rise in the ranks of Pharisees. He surely was advancing because he was zealous. But how much of that zeal was motivated by a desire to impress other Pharisees? Today we might use the term “virtue signaling.”

That was the general setting. In the poem, I focused more tightly on the ambition to be someone “great.” This idol has been on my mind a lot lately. The poem pokes fun at me. The greatness I aspire to (even in last gasps) is not greatness. Relative to true brilliance, we are all 99.9% darkness.

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