Whenever I read this passage I’m struck by John’s crystal clear understanding:
He understands who he’s not:
Are you the Christ? No. Are you Elijah? No. The Prophet? No.
He understands who he is:
He’s just a voice testifying about Jesus, whose “sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
And he understands his place in the story.
He understands that he’s part of a long line of faithful people who have looked to God in their search for shalom.
What we don’t get to hear is how John came to the place of clarity. That must have been a fascinating process.
“Miracles may show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself… Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”
– M. Raymond, O.C.S.O
May God bless your process of understanding of your identity and your place in this great story.
There’s another shift that needs to take place if we’re going to pass-on the faith to the next generation:
We must truly believe that love is stronger than fear.
I think this is always true.
But it is especially true in terms of Biblical character development. In the Christian story, love is the starting point, not fear of punishment.
Some of us would probably say that our faith development was very much motivated by a fear of punishment – as in eternal punishment. And I realize some fearful threats exist in scripture, that there are Biblical stories of God punishing people, and that fear works as a motivator on a lot of levels.
But I’d respond to any proponent of a model rooted in fear with this:
First, fear might work, but true love works better. Love is an even better motivator than fear. Its literally better (as in more good). And it lasts longer.
Fear of punishment might motivate me to keep the rules, to drive the speed limit, at least until the cop drives by. Once the threat of punishment is removed usually the motivation to keep the rules is gone too. Unless the motivation is something stronger than fear. Fear of punishment can motivate a person to keep the rules. But is that what the Christian faith is about? Keeping the rules? No.
And second, God wants us to be motivated by love
. This whole story is based on God wanting a real, authentic, love relationship with people.
Love is stronger than fear.
I need to believe that when I pray.
I need to believe that when I parent.