Tag Archives: Image

Contrasts

Contrasts (CaD John 4) Wayfarer

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
John 4:7 (NIV)

One of the things I’ve observed in life is the way human beings see others and then begin to identify self in contrast to others. I see myself in contrast to what others seemingly have, or have not. I see myself in contrast to how others live, where they live, what they look like, how they dress, their social status, their education, their economic status, their popularity, their influence, their dress, and yes, even the color of their skin. If I’m not careful, I can begin to identify myself by what I’m not rather than what I am.

In my journey through John’s biography of Jesus, I’ve been resonating on the theme of identity, and in yesterday’s chapter and today’s chapter there is an interesting contrast between the individuals to whom John chooses to introduce us.

Nicodemus was rich and powerful. The Samaritan woman was not.

Nicodemus was educated. The Samaritan woman was not.

Nicodemus had social standing. The Samaritan woman was an outcast.

Nicodemus was known. The Samaritan woman remains anonymous.

Nicodemus was an influencer. The Samaritan woman was a nobody.

Nicodemus met Jesus at night. The Samaritan woman met Jesus at noon.

It was socially acceptable for Jesus to speak with Nicodemus, but it was socially unacceptable for Jesus to speak with a woman or a Samaritan.

Nicodemus was religiously upright. The Samaritan woman was a sinner.

Nicodemus didn’t get Jesus. The Samaritan woman did.

There is so much happening in the subtext and contrast of these two encounters that I think I could chew on it all day. If I was doing a character study in preparation to portray either of these individuals on stage, I would likely conclude that Nicodemus’ perception of himself was rather haughty given his place in position in contrast with others. It’s hard for me to believe that the poor woman in a patriarchal system, racially outcast, with five failed marriages on her resume would have a particularly positive self-image.

How does my self perception affect my spiritual perception?

I have to confess that my earthly standing is closer to that of Nicodemus. How does that affect my spiritual receptors, my image of self, and my grasp of the divine? At the same time, my life is riddled with failures. I’m regularly reminded that people think I’m an idiot. I’ve even been told by others more religious than me that I am, in fact, going to hell (complete with scriptural references to prove it). What does that do for my self-image and my spiritual perceptions?

In the quiet this morning, my head and my heart are contemplative as they churn on these questions. As I look back on my journey as a follower of Jesus, I recognize that it has been a process of learning who I truly am in relationship to who Jesus truly is. It has been a process of both knowing myself and knowing God, and the two are as mysteriously and intricately interwoven as the circle dance of Father, Son, and Spirit. I can also see that the further I’ve progressed in this journey, the more the contrast with others, which dominated my self-perception for so long, transforms into my growing perception of seeing Jesus in every other person.

Being “Like God” or Being “Like God”

Being "Like God" or Being "Like God" (CaD Ex 7) Wayfarer

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.
Exodus 7:1 (NRSVCE)

For 21st century followers of Jesus, the idea of being God’s agent on Earth is a common one. Jesus made it clear that He was entrusting His on-going mission to His followers. Holy Spirit was poured out to indwell believers, impart spiritual gifts to each, and empower every believer as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom. Believers often speak metaphorically of being Jesus’ eyes, ears, hands, and feet; We are asked to be, expected to be, the embodiment of Jesus’ love to others.

It struck me then when God told Moses “I have made you like God to Pharaoh.” The only time that being “like God” has come up in the story before now was when the snake tempts Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit, stating that it will make them “like God.” Until Moses appears, God has been intent on making Himself known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At this point in the story, however, the Hebrews had become a nation of people living in Egypt for hundreds of years with the 1000+ Egyptian dieties.

One of the subtle themes that has already been established in the Moses story is that God wants the Hebrew people to “know” Him, and for Pharaoh to “know” Him. “They will know,” and “Egyptians will know” are repeated statements. In this way, Moses is really the first example of God using a human instrument through which others will come to know God and through whom God will display His power.

This, of course, sets up a really interesting and important contrast.

Being “like God” can be opposite sides of a coin. I can be “like God” by seeking complete control of my life and the lives of everyone around me. If I want to be “like God” by sitting on the throne of my own life looking out for numero uno, doing as I please, and determining my own way with every step, then my path is going to lead to spiritually dark places (even if I wear the facade of being a good and faithful member of my local church). This is the dark side of “being like God.”

When Moses was being “like God” and when Jesus’ followers become “Christ-like” it is a process of humility, vulnerability, and submission. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words to Peter after the resurrection:

Jesus said [to Peter], “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”
John 21:17-19 (MSG)

Jesus explains that Peter had lived the dark side of being “like God” self-centeredly determining his own way, but now he is going to experience the Light side of being “like God” in which he will (like Jesus’ did) humbly surrender his own rights of self-determination and become obedient to places he doesn’t want to go (i.e. “Father, let this cup pass from me”), even to his physical death.

In the quiet this morning, I’m finding myself surprisingly emotional as I meditate on this very simple concept. In my daily life, in the writing of these blog posts, I take on the mantle of being a follower of Jesus. But, are my daily life, words, and actions a demonstration of the dark side of being “like God” or the Light side of being “like Christ”? Am I living for myself under the veneer of being a good Jesus follower? Is my life a demonstration of the humility, vulnerability, and surrender required to be an agent of Christ-like love?

I’m not sure I like all of the answers I’m coming up with to these questions.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 38

from El Caganer via Flicker

For I am waiting for you, O Lord.
    You must answer for me, O Lord my God.
Psalm 38:15 (NLT)

I once worked for a man who had everything going for him in the world. He was a popular, respected man in the community, in the media, and in the local church. His spit-polished, picture perfect life was regularly and subtly trotted out as the ideal for others to aspire. It did not take me long to figure out how much of that was window-dressing.

Sometimes we look back at pieces of our journey and, in hindsight, realize why we needed to know certain people or do certain things. For me, my tenure working for Mr. Perfect was an imortant lesson in who I did not want to be. Everyone has their faults, even those whose lives are decorated for public consumption.

One of the things I love about King David’s songs is his gut wrenching honesty. Today’s psalm is Exhibit A. How many kings are going to write a blues song about their sin, guilt and shame and admit to the consequences of sin in their current troubles? I appreciate David’s genuine honesty and his willingness to be human despite the pressure to appear god-like in his royalty.

Many years ago a close friend who intimately knew my whole story observed that my life was a “slow deconstruction” of the very type of picture perfect image my old boss wore so effortlessly. I see the truth in what he was saying. Keep the wrecking ball going. I’d prefer to be like David with all of the pain and heartache which comes from living genuinely.

Jesus called me to live in such a way that I might be light to those living in darkness. The further I get in life’s journey the more I’ve come to believe that those in darkness are not drawn to a flashy, neon mirage of perfection that seems so foreign to them. I think they are drawn to the subtle flicker of genuine sinners saved by grace.

Chapter-a-Day Amos 6

infomercial
Image by Marilyn M via Flickr

Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain! those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles! They could not care less about their country going to ruin. Amos 6:6 (MSG)

Flipping through the channel guide on television this morning, here are the titles I saw:

  • Step & Lose weight
  • Get Luscious Hair!
  • Carve Abs in Bed!
  • Look Younger
  • Anti-Aging Secrets
  • Easy Hair Removal!
  • Weight Loss Breakthrough!
  • Millionaire’s Secrets
  • Sexy Swimsuit Body
  • Summer Sexy Abs
  • Microwave Grilling!
  • eBay Riches!
  • Get Sexier in 90 Days!
  • Look Younger in 14 Days!
  • Body Gospel
  • Look Younger Instantly
  • Food Lovers Fat Loss
  • Overcoming Anxiety

Was Amos talking to Israel, or to us?

Enhanced by Zemanta