In Pursuit of Glory
In those days, therefore, it was a very great thing to the Romans either to die brave or live free.
City of God V.12
There, the sun does not rise upon the good and evil; rather, the Sun of righteousness protects only the good. There no great industry will be devoted to the task of enriching the public treasury at the expense of private riches, for the treasury of truth will be the common property of all.
City of God V.16, Augustine
For the Romans performed such works and underwent such evils for an earthly country which they possessed already.
City of God, V.17, Augustine
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
2 Corinthians 4:17
I just listened to a sermon this week about how we neglect thinking about our glorification. I mentioned last time I’m working through Lloyd-Jones’ Romans series that he gave during his Friday night study. You also may have noticed I’m rehacking my way through City of God a few pages a day. The Romans, Augustine tells us, were controlled by two virtues. You could call it their glory: ‘It was a very great thing to the Romans either to die brave or live free.’ It sounds very honorable to many. But the problem lies in that this was their glory. When a general won a war, he was valorized. When a soldier bravely fought and died, his name lived into eternity. In a sense, it became their eternal life. Fortune favors the bold. And this bravery and pursuit of liberty did quite well for Rome. But you should know that there is no longer a Roman empire standing. They have all faded away into history, and their glory is in ruin. So much for Roman glorification.
I wonder though how much of our pursuit of glory would be wounded if our nation were taken away, and if its monuments were in rubble. Americans are taught to live free and resist authority. And the yo-yo of politics reminds us that both sides of the aisle have been duly indoctrinated. The Romans, in their bravery, thought it was worth it to sacrifice their lives for their country. Augustine reminds us of fathers who didn’t spare their sons, nor brothers their siblings. For the sake of their earthly country. And Americans too have found it worthy to lay down their lives for their country. And I think this is true for most other current and long-past political hegemonies.
If the Romans, and Americans, and other nations have thought it worthy to suffer for the sake of their earthly country, how much more should we count it an honor to suffer for our heavenly inheritance? Do we consider our affliction light? Or are we more concerned about the current hegemony that will one day fade into the air? Do we count it all joy when we encounter trials (knowing our glorification is present and secure), or do we make it our only goal in life to put down this affliction? As if we were gods?
You see the glory of the heavenly country is not far off. We are often tempted to think of it like a dream as though we’ll only experience it as weightless visions that disappear. That’s the furthest from the truth. If we have been justified, we have been also glorified. Did you hear it? We have been! We currently possess glorification. It’s as though it is in our pockets or we’re wearing the clothes. We are welcome to the wedding feast because He has clothed us in His own righteousness. You can see this tension we have. We have this allegiance to our native country (or perhaps our adopted country). We have been taught to be devoted to it, and we have ingested its cultural milieu without thinking. In Little House on the Prairie, Charles Ingalls’ pursuit of his own slice of independence isn’t much different from our Minnesotan passive-aggressive culture or our individually-cultivated-opinions-without-experience that divide so many of us now. We all are deeply indoctrinated by an American doctrine of self-determination.
So when the Psalmist says, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good,’ I wonder if we could add, ‘know that the Lord is better than your love for self-determination. Remember the Romans died. Even though George Washington is depicted as becoming a god on the dome of the Capitol building, he’s also passed on. His glory has faded. But for those in Christ, even now the glory of God shines brighter than the apotheosis of Washington, and clothes of his righteousness are more glorious than the humble rule of Cincinnatus who returned the Fasces and returned to the poverty of farming across the Tiber. Of course neither the Americans nor the Romans literally believed one of their famous men of old became gods, but they imagined the human glory of Washington and Cincinnatus was like becoming a god.
May we not forget that this light and momentary affliction is preparing in us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, and may we not be duped by all the fake glory swirling around us.