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And are these the greatest Christians now alive?
The most famous Christians are not necessarily the greatest Christians, and the quest for fame is intrinsically at odds with the spiritual life.
When Edith Shaeffer was asked who the greatest living Christian woman in the world was, she replied memorably, ‘We don’t know her name. She is dying of cancer somewhere in a hospital in India.’
Who is the greatest? The disciples were vexed by this question, and Jesus tried to solve it more than once. The one who believes like a child. The one who can serve others.
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The blogosphere can be a noisy place. A clamour of opinion, attack, self-promotion and the trivial, though shot through with gems of insight, wisdom, humour and beauty. And sometimes, even with the divine.
Sometimes, the difference between the echo chamber of anger, finger pointing and “outing” in the Christian blogosphere, and the gentle whisper in which God ultimately speaks to Elijah can be striking.
And just when you despair, you hear gentle voices which are close to God’s heartbeat, Ann Voskamp, definitely, and often, the more polemic John Piper, and you feel better. You realize that even the snakes and ladders world of fame, celebrity, attention, followers, is, of course, under the sovereignty of God. That God is sovereign over the literary world, and sovereign over the blogosphere. That God has an interest in promoting mystics like Ann Voskamp whose heart beats like his.
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We write to be read. When I first began blogging, I worried, because it seemed that controversy, attack and tearing down definitely got more traction, readers, attention and links, than things which might be a blessing, be soul-nourishing and soul-fattening.
But there are spiritual dangers in tearing down other Christians, or other Christian bloggers. It’s the work of “the accuser of the brethren who accuses them night and day before the throne.” Though sometimes, if the views of an influential Christian are harmful, something might need to be said. Or done.
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But there are spiritual dangers too in writing about the spiritual life. The wonderful Norwegian writer, O. Hallesby, said that one’s secret life with Christ in the secret places of prayer is like a cosy, warm Norwegian cottage in a blustery winter. If you talk about your prayer life, you open the door, and cold wintry blasts enter.
The only justification for doing so is that that’s the song I have to sing. One of my deepest interests. I read Christian memoirs and autobiographies as travel dispatches from people who have ventured deeper into the holy wilds of God than I have, and I want to hear the news, the travel conditions, their blog, Facebook, and twitter reports of their travels, so to say. Similarly, by honestly describing my spiritual adventuring, I might be able construct a travel map, a topographical map for those who might be called to follow similar routes.
But we need grace, for writing about the spiritual life has all sorts of dangers—pride, self-promotion, exaggeration, and the dangers of “garden writing:” that one might spend more time describing the fruits and flowers in the garden of your soul than tending them. That one can continue with spiritual “garden writing,” even while the real garden grows weedy, unwatered and unkempt. This happens to many Christian preachers, speakers, celebrities and writers. But may it not be true of me, Lord.
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My hope, my goal in my blog posts is that I hear or overhear what God is saying, and saying to me, and express it. I want to see the world and see reality as he does.
We write to be read. Amid the clamour of many voices and the self-promotion of commercial Christianity, will gentle whispers ever be heard?
Yes. Because if one has sat at Christ’s feet long enough to hear his voice and feel his heartbeat, then he is as interested in having your voice heard as you are yourself.
So, relax, oh Christian blogger. If you do indeed have something to say which might bless the world, you have a friend in high places, a powerful connection, who also wants your voice to be heard, your words to be read, and know the best way to bring about this happy eventuality.