2004-04-19 - Vicar of Bray
Galatians 5:16,17 "But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."
We all know people who act a certain way with one group and another way with another group. It is much like the old phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans," or today's modern-day equivalent, "Everything done in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Many people will behave one way with 'church folk' and a completely different way with coworkers or those not connected to the church. They are people who we often call two-faced. If it is hot outside, this person loves heat. If it is cold, then cold is the best weather. If a decision needs to be made, this person will wet his finger, hold it up, and determine which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. Rather than have convictions and principles to determine decisions and conduct, this pragmatic person simply follows whatever view or action that will be to his advantage.
The Vicar of Bray provides us an example of this kind of reasoning. When Henry VIII was king, the Vicar was a Roman Catholic. Then when the Protestants came to power after Henry VIII, he was a Protestant. When Mary was the ruler, he became a Roman Catholic again. Then when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, he became a Protestant again. He declared that he had always been consistent with his principles. This is a true statement, because his principle was to continue being the Vicar of Bray.
A true Christian cannot live with such a mindset. The Christian cannot sing songs with the saints on Sunday and engage in shady business practices Monday-Friday. We might think that either the Sunday person or the weekday person is not the real person. In truth, there is no real person there. The real person only comes forward when it is an advantage to him, and that is the real person. Remember Haman, in the book of Esther. He was duplicitous in trying to advance his own cause. His reward was that he was humiliated while exalting his rival, and then hung on the very gallows he had built for the same person. We must be mindful that God knows our hearts. He sees our actions. He is aware of our hidden plans to make ourselves look good. Others may not be savvy enough to see through us, but God misses nothing, and we can ill afford His displeasure.
The remedy for this struggle is found perfectly in the example of Christ. I would be the first to say that it is hard to not compromise principles and seek our advantage in this life. But think of the advantages that Christ could have rightly have asserted, and yet He did not, because in humility, He set aside His rights to offer a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all those who come to Him in faith. We are told to have the same attitude that Christ had (Ephesians 2:5-8). Christ never deviated from His mission, nor should we.
We know what Christ's mission was, but what is our mission? Our mission is to reflect glory upon Christ. We do this out of love for what He has done for us. We are to seek to live consistently and not waver from this mission. As Christians, we are Christ's living and breathing representation to others. It is our mission, Sunday-Saturday, in business and pleasure, to reflect glory back to Christ. It is to be our desire that people see Christ in us and are drawn to Christ. We do not seek anything for ourselves, because apart from Christ, we have nothing.
Soli Deo Gloria,