Thursday, March 12, 2015

Armor-Plated Worldly Weaklings or Vulnerable Gospel Powerhouses?

I was in the coffee shop a little while back studying Isaiah. A guy walked in wearing black, sport-shades and a serious look. It started me thinking.

We admire the invincible. The tough. The survivors. We love to feel strong. We long to feel fearless.

Think of the line of sunglasses that companies like Oakley have been built on. They give us a look of Robocop sternness.

Think of Under Amour. Why has that company been so successful? Why do we love the look and feel of chiseled impenetrability? We become like what we admire (at least we try!).

Think of Ironman. A superhero because of a super-suit. What’s the appeal? Do we want to be more robotic? Or is it the seeming invincibility that comes from wearing and wielding the suit?

Here we are, wanting to be like, and looking more like, (powerful) machines. Why?

I think this simultaneously taps the inescapable image of God in us, and betrays the effects of the Fall.

It taps the made-to-live, eternity-in-our-hearts longing for immortality. And it betrays the we-all-die-and-we-hate-it, we-are-way-too-vulnerable-and-weak-and-we-hate-it reality we are desperately trying to escape.

In our fallen blindness, we respond by trying to cover and shield our vulnerability with robotic, synthetic, “armor-plating.” That will keep out the threats. That will ensure our fragility is not exposed. We will become more like machines. Yes. (Have you ever come away from talking to someone so emotionally guarded that they seemed more machine than human; more mechanical than relational?) Hard and impenetrable on the outside. It’s much safer that way. Because, after all, we want to “live.”

But do we live? Or does this pursuit of synthetic safety actually pose a greater risk? Listen to C.S. Lewis (from The Four Loves, emphasis added): 
Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’ … If I am sure of anything I am sure that [Jesus’] teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
Think of how the gospel leads us in the polar opposite path. The human path. The Christlike path. The risky, painful, strength-through-weakness, die-that-others-might-live path.

God the Son – the truly invincible – willingly and lovingly became violable, to break through the hard shell of our slavery to sin and make us alive in Him, forevermore. He became a weak slave and a victim of unjust trial and death, to free us from our slavish fear of death and powerless victimization and weakness.

The eternal, immortal, invisible, transcendent, sovereign, omnipotent God dropped into this space and time between the knees of a young peasant girl in a smelly stable. He willingly took on weakness in order to make us truly strong from the inside out. Strong enough to be honest about our weakness. Strong enough to risk our comfort and security to be vulnerable with others in the cause of love. Strong enough to risk the dangerous path to becoming truly human. We are not robots. We were never intended to be.

But we were made to live. And live immortally. The Son of God embraced human mortality in order that those who believe in him might not perish, but have everlasting, immortal, unkillable, invincible life.

Romans 8:31-39 
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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