Binoculars

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The proof is in the pudding.
That’s a cliche I heard the other day that got the wheels in my head turning. Proof of what, exactly? Is this something I want to be eating? I am skeptical of this pudding.

Or, as Jesus says: “You will know a tree by its fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) I used to think that verse was supposed to make things clearer, help us distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Now I’m not so sure.

Instead it makes me question: am I producing fruit? If I’m not, does that make me one of the bad guys?
And then what about when the people I think are bad guys are the ones producing fruit? When the guys with their prosperity gospels or their gluttonous lifestyles are the ones with followings, the ones winning souls? What then? Is fame a fruit? Is influence?

No, this verse doesn’t make things black and white, it turns everything into an ocean of gray around me. It turns me gray too.

And then I see in the same sermon, the one that takes place on a mount, Jesus also teaches “Judge not, that you be not judged. . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”(‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:1-‭5‬)

Sometimes the Bible is hard.

Our tendency is to use the Bible as a pair of binoculars to peer out of our windows, safely from within our homes, judging our neighbors from a distance. This is what makes for a black and white world view.

Lately I have more questions than answers. I don’t know what I believe about so many parts of life, about God’s will, about what is sin and what isn’t and where it intersects with grace . . . And this bible of mine, whose pages I’ve read at least a few times each can still be so mysterious to me.
There was a time when I knew all the answers. There was a time when my faith was a blanket of comfort and it gave me confidence and I judged and excelled and understood all things by it. I often miss being so self assured, but I would not go back to that black and whiteness.

Here’s the problem with binoculars: they only work from far away. Turn them toward somebody close to you, or towards a mirror, and things get all blurry. A little gray.
But Jesus wants us to be up close, to not hold our neighbors at arms length, and for goodness’ sake to stop worrying so much about extracting specks and casting stones. Jesus isn’t afraid of our questions and he isn’t afraid of our murky, blurry gray. He stood in line to get baptized with the sinners. He let himself become “unclean” for the sake of physical touch. He provided wine at a party when they had run out (which, through my binoculars, seems very much like a first world problem.)

He is not ashamed of our “I don’t know.” He is ashamed of our “I don’t care.”

So let us risk losing the comfort of our black and white worldview for the sake of love. Let us learn to be comfortable with our questions. Let’s wrestle with “IS THIS A SIN” and “why did this happen?” And let us not speak any truth at all if the speaking lacks this up-close-and-personal love.

I wonder if He kind of enjoys our wrestling with our faith because it means He has our attention. I wonder if the mystery is purposeful to keep us squinting through the veil with hungry eyes.

I also wonder if all along we’ve been looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. If perhaps the Bible is not meant to be the tool by which we knit-pick each other, but the means by which we view a vast God and the vast world he created and loves, concepts often too big for us to grasp with the naked eye. I wonder if we fixate on brush strokes and perhaps he wants to show us the whole masterpiece from time to time.

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