A Discussion with Scot McKnight Below is an online interview/dialogue on spiritual growth I had with Dr. Scot McKnight, a New Testament Professor at Northern Seminary and the author of Christianity Today’s Book of the Year, The Jesus Creed. This dialectic is offered both here and on Scot’s blog on Patheos.com)
Brad: In Genesis 28, Jacob puts up a marker at Bethel after a dream of heaven’s real presence on earth. He says, “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it! …This stone that I have set up as a memorial pillar will mark this as a place where God lives.”
In Deuteronomy 27, Moses has the Israelites build a similar marker where they cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, while “rejoicing in the presence of God, your God.” These are markers of spiritual growth.
Do you have ‘markers’ of spiritual formation and God’s presence visible in your life? Some examples I’ve seen recently:
• Two gray-hair women are overheard talking at church, discussing how to connect with their shut-in neighbor. “What could we do to help her?” they ponder.
• A father hands a supermarket gift card to one of our ministry staff. “Would you give this to some young family that might be struggling a bit? Don’t mention my name.”
• Another couple, watching the winter thermometer plummet, heads to the store to buy a pile of hats and socks, and then drives to the Denver Rescue Mission.
• A working mom prayerfully looks for older couples pinching pennies in the grocery store. Speaking quietly, she simply says to them, “I have a favor to ask. At church they are challenging us to tangibly love our neighbors. Here’s $50. I know you don’t need this, but I would like to help buy your groceries. No strings attached. May I please do that?”
• Two friends share with a pastor that they have promised each other to start anew speaking the truth in love—truth-telling—to each other.
• Another man comments after a guest speaker’s challenge for the Church to live more engaged with our culture, “All I could think of was the Jesus Creed—to love God and to love others!”
As our church has been studying your book, The Jesus Creed, we’ve also been reciting Jesus’ words from Mark 12:29-31 each day:
“’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
This text challenges us with Jesus’ quintessential ethic of love, what Thomas à Kempis called “a whole dictionary in just one dictum.” Over six weeks of reading and study, we’ve begun to see ‘markers and pillars” appear in our congregation. As a pastor, I think of them as signs of spiritual formation and spirit-led growth.
Scot, what kind of markers do you look for in growing Christians?
Scot: What a wonderful opening, Brad, and I can’t even add to that. All I can do is Amen! it. The secret of letting the Jesus Creed is to learn to “measure” ourselves by our love for God, our love for ourselves, and our love for others – these become the standard by which we measure our discipleship.
But I don’t want to get too scrupulous here. None of us is full of love and none of us loves as God loves – all and in utter fullness. But we are called to love and love must then become our measure. I have created a “Love Test” to help us each measure ourselves in our journey of spiritual growth. So here is my Love Test.
Brad: What do these markers reveal or proclaim, do you think?
Scot: They are concrete, realistic signs of God prompting us to love others as we love ourselves. We might ask ourselves regularly: What act today demonstrated that I love others?