psalm xxvii – seek My face

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

- ps xxvii (nkjv)

Whose face do you seek? Perhaps it is the face of a partner; that they would look at you with warmth and love. Perhaps it is the face of a colleague; that they would look at you with admiration and respect. Or the face of a pastor; that he would have confidence that you are a worthy addition to your church. Perhaps it is a parent; that they would look at you without worry and with pride. Or maybe the face of your child; that they would see you as their nurturing benefactor. Whose face do you want to see lit up by your presence? Or are there none. Have you numbed yourself to others so much that nothing gets in or out; that the faces around are blurred and ignored to save yourself the pain of their judgement?  

The face of Christ is different to the faces of other men and women. It is a face that only offers and doesn’t demand. It is a face scarred by thorns, a perpetual reminder of the love He has for you. This face demands nothing but gives all. It is the face of the One who saves, not the one who needs you to provide anything. This gift of Christ is a hard one to swallow, given how most of our relationships are a constant back-and-forth of expectations and judgement. Christ is an oasis Whose face emits nothing but love, so God forbid you treat Him as your judge and executioner.

But the world full of expectation and judgement in which we live is not to be avoided. We don’t win by what has been called “spiritual bypass”: resorting to the constant practice of spiritual disciplines to avoid the real world around you. This was not Jesus’ practice. No, he was active outwardly while being secure inwardly. The anonymous author of the Theologica Germanica speaks of the “inner” and “outer” person in this way: inwardly, we are set with Christ in the heavenly places and completely secure in His unmerited love. Outwardly, we are active in love towards other people. But this is not obligation, just as it was not obligation for Christ to love. It is the flowing of that inward life out and towards other people, not to seek their approval but to transmit to them the experience of being completely accepted by Christ. It was this infinite wellspring of His identity which Christ drew on the cross to bear the shame and violence and we now share from that fountain as we are united to Him.

Seek only the face of Christ for no other determines your value but His.
Then go out and serve those faces for whom Christ died with the same selfless, joyful, unburdened love.

<— psalm xxvi psalm xxviii —>