Scott Benhase: The new person is not the believer, but Jesus

Conversion of life is a constant transformation

The third of three posts on the Benedictine promises of Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life. I hope we can see how the Benedictine promises can inform and shape our leadership.

“The new person is like a garment made to cover the individual believer . . . It is impossible to become a new person as a solitary individual. The new person is not the individual believer after he has been justified and sanctified, but the Christian community, the Body of Christ, Christ himself” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To be a disciple of Jesus is to be committed to Conversion of Life, or said another way, to the transformation of our lives. Our vows in baptism give us identity and purpose; so that our lives, our relationships, Christ’s church, indeed the very culture in which we live, may be transformed. By practicing stability and obedience we are confronted with ourselves as we seek faithfulness to the Lord. The struggle in the world and the struggle in our souls is one struggle. In that work of conversion, we discover God’s kingdom.

Daily Conversion of Life is the practice of seeking God's presence in the new, which is every next moment in our lives. Our bodies change, the Church is different, a friend moves - we face continuous change and constant conversion. We must then pray for an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in ourselves, which, based on the truth of Scripture, is an openness to joy. In that joy we "press on for what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13). We live trusting that God is in the next moment of our lives.

Here is how we might open ourselves to this daily transformation:

• Giving ourselves to today's demands and possibilities; striving to take practical action here and now.

• Living with our own death before us (Benedict wrote: "keep your own death before your eyes each day") by learning to depend radically on God alone.

• Committing ourselves to maturity in our faith, in our emotional life, and by accepting responsibility for ourselves so that we might love others rather than blame them when we are dissatisfied with our lives.

• Praying that the Lord will use us as we are with the gifts, skills, and shortcomings we have. We’re called to offer what we have in the real context of our lives.

• Relieving ourselves of anxious attempts to ensure our future. It is God's business to decide how long God will use us.

Thus, our daily Conversion of Life will always require our openness and vulnerability to the other and to the new thing that God is doing in our lives. As leaders it takes discipline on our part to maintain such openness and vulnerability. It does not always come easily or naturally to us. If we are able to maintain such discipline, however, we will discover that our leadership will become less about us and more about what God is up to in the world through us.

Scott Benhase is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.