A few weeks ago Brennan Manning made his final passage. I spent hours re-reading, listening to talks and thanking God for his influence in my life. This week Dallas Willard succumbed to cancer. So the past couple days I've reflected on Willard's work in all things spiritual formation - something he referred to as the "with-God life."
Dallas' life wasn't about mere knowledge of scripture or even Christian "growth." He was enamored with the person of Jesus and all he invites us to experience. He lived in the kingdom of God.
One of the stand-out attributes of Willard's life was his approach to dialog with non-believers. He engaged conversations to learn and understand, not debate and win.
Writing of this humble giant, John Ortberg noted:
Through the last week of his life he was still hoping to help believers engage non-believers by looking together at questions where people get stuck in their actual lives rather than by trying to win arguments.*
When our faith is a mere systematic theology or a list of "things we should know" our conversations and lives will reflect the same.
- We'll debate what discipleship is, rather than engage a life of followership.
- We'll try to "win" our friends over to our journey, rather than join them on a mutual path of discovery.
- We'll judge others and thank God we're "not like they are," rather than see our own imperfections and need of a Savior.
- We'll exist to understand, even control, what or who God is and what others think of him, rather than experience personal relationship that defines our reality in a God who is crazy about us.
I want to live in the reality Dallas described:
“We must understand that God does not "love" us without liking us - through gritted teeth - as "Christian" love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core - which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word "love".”
t's this kind of "love" I want to extend to my neighbors and friends.
If discipleship is about anything it is about the Way of Love, the Way of Christ. Discipleship is about sharing, reproducing, and the renovation of the human heart and the entire planet. If my efforts and pathways to be a disciple don't render me more loving, more gracious, more patient, and less controlling, less anxious, less self-focused, then I'm not taking steps in the Jesus Way; I'm still stuck in my own way.
Dallas is experiencing the "love" of God as he never has before and he's understanding what it means to "rest in peace."
I'm grateful and called forward into a Kingdom conspiracy that is truly Divine.
* Read Ortberg's tribute to Dallas Willard here.