“Unclench those fingers.”


When crowds gather, to check out this new source of entertainment or outrage, to see if he’s conducting himself like a teacher or a prophet or just possibly like a guerrillero looking for recruits- when the crowds gather, he sits them down in the sheep pasture, and he says: behave as if you never had to be afraid of the consequence. Behave as if nothing you gave away could ever make you poorer, because you can never run out of what you give. Behave as if this one day we’re in now were the whole of time, and you didn’t have to hold anything back, or to plot and scheme about tomorrow. Don’t try to grip your life with tight, anxious hands. Unclench those fingers. Let it go. If someone asks for your help, give them more than they’ve asked for. If someone hits out at you, let them. Don’t retaliate. Be the place the violence ends. Because you’ve got it wrong about virtue. It isn’t something built up from a thousand careful, carefully measured acts. It comes, when it comes, in a rush; it comes from behaving, so far as you can, like God Himself, who makes and makes and loves and loves and is never the less for it. God doesn’t want your careful virtue, He wants your reckless generosity. Try to keep what you have, and you’ll lose even that. Give it away, and you’ll get back more than you bargain for; more than bargaining could ever get you. By the way, you were wanting a king? Look at that flower over there by the wall. More beautiful than any royal robe, don’t you think? Better than silks; and it comes bursting out of the ground all by itself, free and gratis. It won’t last? Nothing lasts; nothing but God.

-Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense.

Sometimes a swift kick is needed to remind me of how shocking and beautiful Jesus’ teachings are. Spufford does so repeatedly in this odd and wonderful non-apologetic about Christianity’s emotional resonance.

“…we need painters and novelists and dancers…”

We don’t just need teachers and preachers and scholars and “doctors” of the church to tell us what do do; if the gospel is going to capture imaginations and sanctify perceptions we need painters and novelists and dancers and songwriters and sculptors and poets and designers whose creative work shows the world otherwise, enabling us to imagine differently- and hence perceive differently and so act differently.

-James K. A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom (2013).