A while back ago, I had the opportunity to read Isaiah Berlin’s The Roots of Romanticism and there I found a quote from Johann Georg Hamann that went like this:
…but if you really wish to enter into contact with human beings, if you really wish to understand what they think, what they feel and what they are, then you must understand every gesture, every nuance, you must watch their eyes, you must observe the movement of their lips, you must hear their words, you must understand their handwriting, and then you come to direct acquaintance with the actual sources of life.
I am most impressed with Hamann’s passion in linguistics. For Hamann, it was not merely a study of human languages by “some anatomical…means,” in other words, an objective, logical study of a means of communication. Of course, there is that aspect, but there is something more with Hamann: an earnest desire to really get underneath the words that are used, to reach the feelings that drive the language.
This passion and desire to know people in such an intimate way should also be replicated in our fellowship with the Lord. That is, to “wish” and “really wish” in our contacts with Christ that we can understand what He thinks, what He feels, and who He is (the emphasis is on Christ). Yet these wishes must be motivated by a burning passion, a love that “many waters cannot quench” (Songs 8:7). With such affections, beauties can be uncovered in the words, and meanings can be found in the nuances expressed on His face. If we are to love, why shouldn’t we love in such a way?
The Apostle Paul said this once, “to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Here lies the beauty of incarnation: The fact that the face of a man, Jesus, reflects the content of God’s heart and desires, and that the living of a man on the earth carries out God’s very intention. In such a man, God’s personality, His thoughts, His emotions, and His will are expressed with a man’s face, are embodied in human words, and portrayed by His walk. God has become knowable to man by a man. Without Him man cannot know and would remain ignorant on the earth, and God would remain distanced in unapproachable light. Yet, when God is known, one thing is certain, He is very approachable and human.
The same verse conveys another point, “the face of Jesus Christ” is now “in our hearts.” This means that the privilege to “understand every gesture” and “every nuance” belongs not merely to those who lived in the time of Jesus, but also to those who have received Him into their very being. Now we, His believers, can watch His eyes, observe the movement of His lips, hear His words, and understand Him, because this very wonderful Person is in us.
It is in this manner that the Apostle Paul lived out this life and in his own words, “in the person of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:10). The word “person” is translated from a very rich word in Greek. It denotes the person’s countenance and look, “the face so far forth as it is the organ of sight, and (by it various movements and changes) the index of the inward thoughts and feelings” (Strong Concordance).
Finally, it is through these mysterious encounters with our Savior that we come “to direct acquaintance with the actual sources of [Christ’s] life.” It is true that when we become acquainted with a person we would also come to know the sources of that person’s life. We understand the simplicities and complexities behind the person’s psyche (basically, we know what makes them tick). Furthermore, different ranges of emotions toward the person will begin to foster in us through these interactions.
As we come to know Christ and the life of this person we are also being brought into the source of Christ’s life, God Himself. The life of Christ is not merely a human life, but it is the divine, eternal, uncreated life of God. Our experiences of the depths of Christ’s personality will also transport us into all the various aspects of the magnetic and alleviating God and His mesmeric and soothing attributes. It is such a marvelous blessing to be deep in the midst of Christ and to dive into His extraordinary love, to be lost in His boundless forbearance, to stand on His unparalleled faithfulness, to be sheltered by His absolute humility, to breathe in His utmost purity, to climb across His supreme righteousness and holiness, and to bathe in His brightness and uprightness*.
Ephesians 3:8 To me, less than the least of all saints, was this grace given to announce to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel
Here’s to you all, the divine romantics.
*The virtues listed here are from the book, The Glorious Vision and the Way of the Cross, by Witness Lee