“Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.”
This oft quoted saying comes from Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50 – c. 117) who was discipled by the Apostle John himself. He later served the churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) after John’s death, and eventually wrote a number of letters to some of those churches. Two weeks ago I commented on what Ignatius meant by this now famous quote, and then last week I addressed the question, How can our souls be dazzled with Christ? This week I want to address the question, Does this statement mean that we are not allowed to enjoy anything outside of Christ?
Briefly, my answer is this: to the degree that we are dazzled by Christ in someone or something, we are free to enjoy that person or thing. Let me offer two examples.
My wife Kim really enjoys gardening, or more accurately, growing and multiplying plants and bushes. She spends as much time as possible learning about seeds and soils and various processes that cause things to grow, and then experimenting with what she’s learned. But when you talk with her about her beloved hobby, you quickly discern that she’s actually not dazzled by gardening itself, rather, she’s dazzled by the glory of Christ revealed in nature. She loves to take various aspects of what she’s learning and use them as metaphors for Christ and life. If the day comes when gardening itself outshines the light of Christ in her heart, then gardening will have to go, at least for a season. But as long as she can behold and enjoy the glory of Christ in gardening she’s free to garden.
A few weeks ago my daughter Rachel and I saw Allen Stone in concert at the Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis. He’s one of my favorite secular artists, and though I wouldn’t go to shows like this very often, I do enjoy high quality, live music from time to time. The atmosphere in the club was very tame, but at certain points in the show it was obvious that Allen and others are in open rebellion against God. However, as I experienced their performance, I saw the glory of God pouring through them.
First of all, life itself screams of the existence and glory of God so that the very voices denying God are in fact a testament to his presence. Further, it amazes me to think that God created creative beings. Our ability to hear melodies, craft lyrics, write complex arrangements, and play in harmony with one another are a fruit of the fact that God is, and that God is gracious in giving us such gifts. Finally, as I contemplated the architecture of the building, electricity, the variety of electronics, the lighting, the fashion, the food and drink, and the beauty contained in them all, I found myself in awe of God. If the day comes when I am no longer dazzled by Christ at a concert, I will stop going to concerts. But so long as I can see and savor the glory of Jesus in a concert, I am free to enjoy it.
Ignatius’ statement does not mean that Christians may not enjoy anything outside of Christ, rather, it means that we must learn to enjoy Christ in all things. And if we cannot enjoy Christ in a thing, we must either change or let that thing go.
I hope and pray that the outcome of this blog post will be that we are encouraged and equipped to think carefully about our enjoyment of Christ in all things. As we grow in this skill, may we submit to this ancient wisdom: “Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.”