As our church continues to learn what it means to “savor the grace of the Lord Jesus,” I have experienced my own learning curve as well. While there are certainly many cotton candy passages of scripture and some low hanging fruit when it comes to theological reflection, I sometimes run across a passage in a book that opens a vista where I have never paused to drink in the glory. There are some men, a colloquy from the grave if you will, that do this for me whenever I frequent their writings. Included in this number are such men as Edward Taylor, C.H. Spurgeon, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis. But every once in a while, there comes a living author who can put his pen to paper and it is as if he is taking disparate threads of thought and story, and as he draws his pen across the page, my mind and heart can watch the threads mysteriously yet brilliantly drawing together into a transfiguration of what had been there all along. I believe John Piper to be one such man. Piper can take a well-traveled, common path and turn it into holy ground. The following is an excerpt from the chapter “The Glorious Poverty of a Bad Reputation” out of his book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Crossway 2004). I hope it helps you see the vista like it did for me:
When someone hates your cause, all strategies of love will be slandered, even opposite ones… Truth came dressed in camel skins and eating locusts and living in the wilderness and calling kings adulterers and doing no miracles and dying for a dancing girl. And this was not acceptable. So truth came sociably and went to feasts and made fine wine and let a harlot wash its feet. But this too was not acceptable.
What this meant was that form was not the stumbling block. Truth itself was the stumbling block. And so the only escape for the enemies of truth was caricature and half-truth. Jesus is a glutton and a drunkard. That is why he eats with tax collectors and sinners. But beneath the ugliness of calumny is the glory of compassion… Behind the slander of gluttony is the splendor of mercy. Jesus sacrificed his good name to sit with sinners and save them…
In the end, the only “good name” that matters is not how men feel about us, but how God feels about us. The ultimate slander came on the cross, “Let God deliver him now, if he desires him” (Matthew 27.43). If? There is no question, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.17). This is the only good name that matters in the end. This is true riches. This is the glory of Christ.”