The man who recognizes the truth of any human relation, and neglects the duty involved, is not a true man. The man who takes good care of himself, and none of his brother and sister, is false. A man may be a poet, aware of the highest truth of a thing, he may be a man who would not tell a lie, or steal, or slander—and yet he may not be a true man, inasmuch as the essentials of manhood are not his aim: having nowise come to the flower of his own being, nowise attained the truth of that for which he exists—neither is he striving after the same. Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. But he has relations with his fellow man, to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher, to the less plain. The very nature of a man depends upon these relations. They are truths, and the man is a true man as he fulfills them. Fulfilling them perfectly, he is himself a living truth. The fulfillments of these truths are duties. Man is so constituted as to understand them at first more than he can love them, with the resulting advantage of having thereby the opportunity of choosing them purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible. Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.
The Full Flower of Being
by Dave Roney
Among all the other unique features of Christ is this one; He, for the first time in history and unlike any other before Him, used the terms God and Father interchangeably, as perfect synonyms; at any time He said “God” you may freely think “Father,” for that is what He meant; you will come closer to the mind of God if, when He says “God” you understand His meaning, even when He addressed the enemies of God, to be “Our Father” and “Your Father” and “Their Father.” And we, so far removed from His earthly life by culture, tongue, and time, easily miss the context and impact of this astounding new way of understanding God. In this same verse from St. John, in the same breath by which He declares Himself to be The Truth, He also declares Himself to be The Way; the Way is to open the hearts and minds of all people everywhere to see and know through Him that God is their Father. This is an astounding revelation which, as I suppose, has been dulled down in our understanding because we are so far removed from the setting in which He uttered the words.
For, in His day, the pagan gods of the Greco/Roman world were capricious, mercurial, often portraying not the best but the worst failings in human character. And the God of the Jews, as they understood Him, was certainly superior to that of the Gentiles, yet He had been silent for long centuries, had left them under the heel of yet another encroaching despot again, was to them distant, severe and sinister, a God to be feared (I speak in generality), a God distant and at best only condescending; they had not thought that He was more to them than Deity. And into this dark world came the living Light, beckoning one and all to come to Him, to learn through Him that the one true God is radically different than that of their suppositions and misapprehensions, if not also their dread.
Consider now His discourse in what we call the Sermon on the Mount: In that message He teaches men how they are to pray, saying, “Thus, therefore, you pray: Πάτερ ἡμῶν...” which is, being interpreted, “Father of us” or, according to our syntax, “Our Father...” To whom gives He this instruction? It is to the “multitude” which, when He had finished speaking, were astonished (as is written; Matt. 7:28). Who was included in this great throng? Disciples to be sure, but also tax collectors, and temple scribes too, some from among the palsied and blind, Pharisees and priests and pagan tradesmen and merchants from across the empire, and menacing Roman soldiers at the perimeter. I see in my mind's eye also demoniacs, harlots, and thieves, representatives of all the characters with whom our Lord crossed paths thereafter, some of which became His followers, and some who were later instrumental in His crucifixion. And to the wide assortment of men and women, a microcosm of the world, He spoke and said to them all, without regard to their conditions of mind or body, or their relationship with God, or their sentiment concerning Himself, that they should pray to their Heavenly Father. For, not only did our Lord speak of God as Father but, more, that He is the Father of all. And if He tells the infidel to pray to his Father, then that infidel must be the Father's son as surely as the most faithful follower.
Our Lord, on that day, faced the same problem which the Apostle did when reasoning with the thinkers in Athens; we find St. Paul (Acts 17) in the city “filled with idols,” reasoning first in the synagogue with the Jews and then with the Gentiles outside the Acropolis—and telling them that God is their Father (“For we are indeed,” said Paul, “His offspring.”). It was the chief problem in the ancient world, and the same today; men do not truly understand that He is their Father, and until they come to know this familial link they will always underestimate the work of the Son and their created genetic familial relationship with God as their Father.
But it was not for prayer that He spoke, for even as now and always, men are not in the main naturally given to prayer, and this He knew: the chief thing He sat about to accomplish, which must take place before a man can truly pray aright and not only in form, was to change the manner by which all those gathered on the hill on that day, perceived God. They must first come to know that He is their Father Who loves them. And by that knowing, and it alone, shall all men be drawn to Him. When our Lord declared “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself” He, the express image and perfectly exacting representation of all there is in the Father, would by His Own Self draw those men first to Him and thereby to their Father. For to be drawn to the One is to be drawn to the Other, the twain being as He was clear to boldly say, “one.”
In all which our Lord said and did, it was always with one eye to heaven and one to earth; it is His role as Mediator, with the one hand holding that of the Father and with the other reaching to the hands of men, it is Him healing the familial rift between the Father and His children; it is Christ making the children at oneness with their Father even as He Himself is at oneness with the Father. This is why on the hillside that day He told all men, all women, every person, to pray to their Father. It is not by His death alone that He is reconciling the whole world to the Father; it is also by His living, His thinking and saying and doing as a Man; He was there and then reconciling the world by establishing that God is all and in all, their Father.
He declares “I AM Truth!” He is truth by means of His perfect sameness to His Father and ours, which is His utter, seamless, absolute and love-driven, willing, obedience as a Man to all that is in the Father; all that is to be found in God is likewise found in Him; there is nothing in the One that is not present in the Other, and everything which exists in Either is likewise existing in the Other, and between the Two, Father and Son, there is absolutely never even the smallest departure from this homogeneity of Being. He told men to pray “Our Father;” an individual man, then, to pray “My Father;” He did so that day knowing the majority of the multitude could not yet pray in that fashion; His chief end in that moment was to introduce to them that God is their Father. And if it seems to the reader that I am pounding on that same nail, the Fatherhood of God, incessantly, know that I am doing it by design; for this is the one message that men must hear and believe and know; it is a message not enough taught, and by some deliberately restricted:
From the common theology comes the blow-back that except a fellow asks Jesus “into his heart” God is not his Father; let such as them have their thought and think as they will, the very logic of Christ, the logos of God, casts down the idol of such as Paul sought to remedy in the minds of his hearers, this “unknown God” of the Gnostics. Even the word he uses means, in the Greek, agnosticism (ag'-noce-tos'). When our Lord declares Himself to be truth, not just truth—but The Truth—it is never as to Himself but to the One Who sent Him into the world; Christ is Truth because His Father, Whom He declared to be greater than He, is Truth. I am going to misquote MacDonald to get to the foundation of his meaning, turning the focus of his words from being centered upon man to being centered on Christ:
“The Man Christ Jesus recognizes The Truth in all His human relationships; if He neglected the duty involved He would not be the True Man: But if He did only from a sense of duty He still would not be the True Man, for by duty alone He could not have come to the flower of His being, and nowise could have attained to The Truth for which He exists.”
I will quote MacDonald again without tampering with his words. Here, focusing on men, he says:
“Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. But he has relations with his fellow man, to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher, to the less plain. The very nature of man depends upon these relations. They are truths, and the man is a true man as he fulfills them. Fulfilling them perfectly, he is himself a living truth.”
As to the deliberate misquote of MacDonald, perhaps the words of one of our Father's “other” children (one the fundamentalists would declare to be no child of God but of the devil) may serve to cast further enlightenment:
A donkey turning a millstone is not trying
To press oil from sesame seed.
He is fleeing the blow that was just struck
And hoping to avoid the next.
(Rumi, 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet and mystic)
If a man, any man, including The Man, should do that which is good from only a sense of duty, he could never rise higher than to be a beast of burden, though—and without reservation—I say that it is far better for a man to do the good for whatever reason than to not do it; but it is when a man does what is duty from a spirit of knowing willingness, out of love and by his love in obedience to all that for which he knows to be obedient (as to obedience alone, for whatever reasons may compel, be it the Jew, or pagan, or Christian, it is the same to me—the same duty falls upon all because it is to the same Father over all), as glad service first to God and, then, quite naturally to all other men everywhere, that he comes into the “flower of his own being.” Would not the donkey prefer the pasture? Is he not bound by his chain to the wheel, and are not men bound only by duty likewise chained to their ethic, as though it were their master, their god? Nay, friend; he who would become all which his Father intends for him must render service out of passion and not by obligation—this is the Love of God in action, personified in Christ, and is the core truth embodied in The Truth as exists in God, personified and shown in the face of Jesus:
“Man is so constituted as to understand them [truths] at first more than he can love them, with the resulting advantage of having thereby the opportunity of choosing them purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible. Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.”
And as, in closing, a testimony to this universal Fatherhood of all comes to my mind in the uplifting words of St. Paul, penned in his epistle to the Ephesians; when a man begins to know this, first of himself and then also of his brothers and sisters in the world, he is then as the bud beginning to open into the bloom of his essential being:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (—Eph. 4:4-6, italics added for emphasis)
From the Lower to the Higher...
by Dave Roney
Duty, at its lowest level, may be similar to a seashell; a calcified remnant and reminder of that which once inhabited it and was alive. And when a man does his duty, it is then like unto the living oyster within the shell; but when his duty is in its highest form, then it is the shell containing the living organism in whose bosom is found the pearl of great price. What a man may first do out of his sense of duty will, when he has enlarged sufficiently, be done from love; and the upward nature of love is to follow a staircase of ascending steps, leading up through the stars, to the very throne of The Heart, Who is Love personified. Duty alone is the lowest level, but also the first step in the gestation of love. A man may not at the beginning understand his duty to be love, may for a long time think that duty is only a creaturely discipline born of necessity, to be done whether he desires it or not, as a thing which he must bend himself to, a thing which he might well turn away from if only he could. Yet, even at this lowest of the upward leading steps, he is a man if he shoulders the thing before him as he understands it, does the next right thing according to how he knows what is the right. But to him who refuses his duty, who ignores it or else excuses himself from it, his duty remains as the empty seashell on the shore of his life. And he is no man yet, for:
“The man who recognizes the truth of any human relation, and neglects the duty involved, is not a true man.”
Man is made in the image of God, and God is duty bound, thus also is mankind. But the duty of God is not performed under constraints as is that of fallen and broken man; His duty is the highest form of love and love is selfless, devoted, sacrificial in nature, preferring others above Self and thinking, saying, and doing in accordance with that self-forgettingness to the benefit of others. Whatever is good for God is good for man, and whatever is truly good for man is good for God. Did we suppose, then, that duty is for man alone and not for God? The difference between the creature's accomplishment of his duty and that by God has to do with the stimulus for doing it; in man it is obligation, in God it is wholehearted desire springing from the fount of His love. A man may regret he must do his duty, may slack from it, may do it through sheer will power alone when his inner will is to run from it, but with God it is His singular desire to do His duty regardless of personal cost to Himself, no matter what depth of despair He must enter to do it, or humiliation He must suffer, or how long His patience is taxed; He will not be turned aside, and cannot be turned unless His Love fails Him, which is impossible. The duty of man is ultimately, and exaltedly, to be done even as God does; and such a man is the true man.
But in all of life man must ever begin with the first and lowest step in his staircases; he might desire to be the corporate boss, the pinnacle and highest step, but must begin in the warehouse, the first and lowest step. Or, if he is a soldier, his desire may be to be a general, yet he must start at the lowest step as a cadet. Or, if cuisine he may plan to be a great chef, yet must begin by peeling potatoes. And that for which man is fitted, which is to love divinely, he may have to begin with only an empty seashell to flesh in before he can produce the great pearl. Love knows no caste system, and no man is bound to remain in lowly estate but is ever encouraged to take the next higher step, which leads to a yet higher, then higher still, until at the end he has become the very image of Christ Jesus, and what he understood of duty is transformed.
Duty, no matter what the form it takes, always has to do with relationships. The highest relationship is that one which mirrors the Divine relationship existing within the Trinity and for each of us to, through the Atoner, be ushered into that relationship as God shares with us even His Own divine nature. But it seems a far greater distance from God to us than is our neighbor, easier for us to love those whom we have seen than Him Whom we have not, and God has through others given us the opportunity to begin ascending the staircase which leads to Him:
“Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. But he has relations with his fellow man, to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher, to the less plain. The very nature of a man depends on these relations.”
Man, broken by sin, understands earthly duty better than God; and by his brokenness he is “so constituted to understand them [duties] at first more than he can love them.” But if the man's heart is true, or becoming true, he will begin to see the truth in his duty, and seeing the truth in the thing he will then begin to love his duty. For a man cannot be true except he love that which is true, and this loving of that which is true leads, step by step, to the source and fount of truth, The Truth personified, his God. So, then, a man will “have thereby the opportunity of choosing them [duties] purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible.” Throughout the ascending steps of the man's growth is God ever present, ever through the Spirit guiding him into Truth; it is salvation, to be made well as by a process, an ever increasing spiritual state of health and wholeness; it is to first discover and embrace the heart of Christ and then, as to understanding, the mind of Christ as well, which leads us to conclude:
“Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.”