(I write this reflection mostly for my own heart, but hope others can be encouraged by it too. I think it’s something we who are Christians need to remind ourselves often as we live out our faith in Christ while living in suburbia. Especially the nice suburbs [like Naperville, where I live!]).
We all Live for a Glory
We all live for something we think is great. This thing or cause or person we believe to worthy of our affection, time, and talents. This thing gives our lives significance or identity. It is something we find GLORIOUS. It is a glory that grips us and moves us and shapes us.
This is how the world was set up. We were made for glory. We were made for God’s glory. Our hearts were designed to see and savor and treasure the one true and living God who is there. Doing this gives our hearts joy and purpose and delight.
The challenge we face is that other glories compete for our hearts, and draw us away from living for God’s glory. This is what the Bible calls sin (particularly the sin of idolatry). I think there is a particular way this happens in suburbia.
The Glories of Suburbia
The glories offered to us in suburbia are many. Suburban glories may be a nice house in a good neighborhood, a successful career that is advancing and fulfilling, a healthy and fit body, a family that is put together with children who are smart and athletic or musical and well-behaved. The glories might be eating out at the best restaurants or drinking at the most trendy bars, having satisfying vacations or new cars, wearing the most fashionable clothing or being seen as the best parent or volunteer.
These things aren’t bad in and of themselves. The problem is when we think these things can give us our ultimate meaning and worth. This is when we have traded the glory of God for the glory of a created thing and have begun to worship that which was never meant to be worshiped.
If we make an earthly glory our ultimate glory–our God–we end up with an empty glory. This is because compared to God, all other glories are empty. God gives us all that we have (James 1:17) for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17). But these things were never meant to be worshiped. Only God deserves to be worshiped, and to worship anything is else is break His good law (is breaking the first two commandments “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves and idol”).
Jesus came to earth to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Part of our redemption is beginning to live for the glory of God rather than for the glories of this world.
The Glory of Jesus is Greater than All Other Glories
Jesus is truly glorious and deserves our devotion and love. We see his glory throughout Scripture, but here are a few glimpses just from John 1:1-18.
-Jesus was there in the beginning, before there was anything (1:1a).
-Jesus was with God the Father before there was anything (1:1b, 2)
-Jesus is truly God (1:1c)
-Jesus is the uncreated Creator of all that has ever been created (1:3)
-In Jesus is LIFE (1:4a)
-Jesus’ life is the LIGHT of the world (1:4b)
-The light of Jesus shines in the darkness and cannot be overcome by it (1:5)
-Jesus is the TRUE light of the world (1:10)
-Jesus, as God the Son, was present in the world even before he took on flesh (1:10b)
-Jesus made the world (1:10c)
-Jesus grants those who believe in him to be adopted into the family of God (1:12-13)
-Jesus became a human and lived on earth with us (1:14)
-Jesus’ glory can be seen and savored by us (1:14b)
-Jesus’ glory is marked by grace and truth (1:14c)
-From Jesus’ fullness we receive “grace upon grace” (1:16)
-Through Jesus we receive grace and truth (1:17)
-Jesus has made God known to us (1:18)
Putting Things into Perspective
I believe seeing the greater glory of Jesus in comparison to the empty glory of living for anything else actually helps us rightly value all the wonderful blessings of suburbia and not serve them as idols/false gods; we can receive all the good things of the world as gifts from God to be enjoyed (1 Tim 6:17), but not worshiped.
NOTE: when I describe these other things as empty glories, I don’t mean to denigrate them or imply that they should not be enjoyed or honored. I mean a thing is an empty glory IF that is the thing that a person ultimately lives for—it is empty because it cannot truly satisfy our hearts; only the one true Living God can do that.