Shelters

Tonight’s sermon was a really good reminder. One of the main points was about why 1 Peter (and I guess many epistles) start with a gospel presentation when it is written to Christians. Peter starts with a reminder because for Christians the gospel is SO important. The natural human tendency is to normalize what was once incredible — this is fatal to a true Christian faith (and by extension, any relationship, right?)

Why is there a stigma around the idea of growing up “sheltered”? I guess much of it has to do with the idea that living a comfortable, happy childhood causes naivete in a grown up; a maladjustment to the “real world”. But need this be the case, always?

Humans, I submit, were made to be sheltered. Physically, we have soft skin that does very little to protect us from the elements. Mentally and emotionally we need others to protect us, either from positive (abuse, insults) and negative (neglect, loneliness) harm. We die without shelter.

For Christians, to disdain the need to be “sheltered” seems to ignore the fact that God refers to himself as a mother hen who takes us under wing, that for hundreds of years the central sign and seal of the choseness of God’s people were a tent and a temple, that Adam and Eve’s punishment was (in hindsight, a very parental one) to be kicked out, and that the great narrative arc of our story as Christians can be summed up as one of Exile and Home.

To be sheltered can lead to naivete, silliness and a lack of empathy, but doesn’t an overly hard life do the same? If we think about it, character and strength come from unexpected places.

To be in a constant state of danger is not the cause or root of bravery. Dangerous situations only allow for what bravery already exists to be activated. Surprisingly enough (maybe), the old tales, the Disney movies, turn out to be correct: courage (the root is “heart”) stems from Love. Courage comes from Beauty, from an experience of and desire to protect and maintain what is good and beautiful. Humility, as Christians know, only truly comes from confidence. Those who are only hurt and never loved cannot be humble. How can one who is stepped on at every turn, put on the vulnerable garb of humility?

Why did God have to die? I was asking myself that tonight. At one level I know the answer well. It was even said tonight, he died to pay for our sins. But something about this strikes me as vulgar. I believe in the Atonement, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of the crucifixion as merely a matter of accounting seems small. But there is also this:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In philosophy there is a story about a man who lives in a completely black and white room. He can’t see his skin because he is covered in a white suit from head to toe. There are books and black-and-white movies for him to study that contain information about every single phenomenon in the world. He reads up about color, about light and the rods in his eyes, about the names and wavelengths of each and every color. He knows color, his brain fully comprehends in the inner and outer workings of what happens when a human being sees the light reflected off of a colored surface…

The question is: What does he in fact learn, when the doors are opened to the outside world, and he sees a tree, the sky, the grass, dirt, animals, clothing, etc… for the first time?

The idea of God not knowing anything is offensive, I know. It’s offensive to me, my mind reels from the very thought. But there it is: God knew no sin. Obviously God knows it all. He knows, in fact only He knows our pain. He knows our true circumstances, he knows the things that he is sheltering us from. But one time he didn’t — at least, not in the way that the man knew color, once he saw it. God died once. He died, I think, because we die. He knew the pain of a forsaken father, but not yet the pain of a forsaken son. The pain of a maker seeing his creation sullied, but not the pain of the whip, or the point of the spear. But then, in an act that, if I read it right, angels still can’t quite understand he came and knew it all.

In the paradoxical act of the invulnerable becoming vulnerable, of God becoming man, He redeemed us. And in the process He performed that grand act of alchemy: joy for sorrow, glory for tears, beauty for ashes.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1 Peter 1:8-12

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~ by justinhong on October 8, 2012.

One Response to “Shelters”

  1. Good words.

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