This series is contextual in nature. I’m not writing this to highlight my five favorite books. I’m not even sure that any of these would make that list anyways. But, these are five books have affected my life significantly enough over the last several years. Situations in my life magnified their impact. They come in no particular order of importance.
Christ the Educator, by Clement of Alexandria, goes by a few different names. The original title is in Greek and therefore sometimes gets translated differently. Clement’s work focuses on how Christ sanctifies the Christian (though they didn’t use the word “sanctification” the same way we do). The book can be broken up into two main sections. The first, would be a theological explanation of how Christ sanctifies us. The second, would be how to apply it in Clement’s context. So, if you decide to read his work don’t call Clement legalistic when he says, “Don’t salt your food.” Salt was expensive back in those days and it was seen as very luxuriant. We can carry that sentiment over however, just not the ban on salt.
For me, this book has forever changed the way I disciple people (whether formally or informally). Heck, it has become the method for almost every relationship in my life. Why? Because Clement hits on how Christ disciples me. Its a slow process and Christ is pleased every step of the way–even when I fail.
Clement provides three overarching examples of Christians at varying levels in the sanctification process. The first type of Christian is the one who resists sin for a little while and then stumbles. Christ is teaching him and is pleased with his progress. The second, is the one who can resist for some time and then stumbles. Christ is teaching him and is pleased with his progress. The third, can resist temptation for long periods of time. He has learned to depend on Christ for help through temptation (thus, he is not proud). Christ is still teaching him and he is pleased with him. (FYI-his work is not attempting to answer whether Christian can live a sinless life after conversion-lets not go there).
In this understanding of our sanctification condemnation is removed and replaced with Christ’s love. I was sharing this summary with a friend over lunch. We’ll call him Graham. At the time his twin girls had started walking. He related Clement’s view back to me like this:
“You know, when my girls are trying to walk, I don’t count how many times they fall. I count how many steps they take and I’m proud of them for each one.”
I think this picture captures what Clement of Alexandria is getting at perfectly. Christ lovingly teaches us how to walk in his ways. We, like toddlers, may stumble every few steps. But as we grow into mature Christians we begin to stumble less. We don’t do this in our own power, Christ helps us with every step. He’s already walked this path. This idea has changed my relationship with God and with others. That’s why its here.