"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Gift

Going to the theater is still very exciting to me.  The anticipation as the previews roll, the huge screen and dark room, the smell of popcorn - it was all there when my brother and I went to see The Giver a couple of weeks ago.  I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed it and spoil the ending for you...but I'll try not to.

In the movie, Jonas comes of age in a synchronized community where all differences, emotions, and idiosyncracies were abolished generations ago.  Only one person, the Giver, has received decades of memories of music, snow, and home - as well as memories of war, pain, and loss.  It is his job to hold these memories and counsel the community elders when situations are beyond their experience.  Now it is also his responsibility to transfer his role - and memories - to Jonas.

So we watch Jonas discover dancing and love - as well as death and euthanasia - and form his conscience along the way.  In one poignant scene (I really am trying not to spoil it), the Giver informs Jonas that a friend of his -  unenlightened to what Jonas has learned - will soon learn how to euthanize babies.  "She wouldn't do it," Jonas insists.  "Not if she understood."

Reminding Jonas of his community's naivete of right and wrong, the Giver argues, "You and I are the only ones who understand."

"Then it's our fault," Jonas retorts.

It's a challenging scene.  It may make some of us want to shout from the rooftops that wrong is wrong, or storm abortion centers with pro-life slogans and graphics.  It may make us want to yell our convictions loud enough that others can't help but notice us.

But is that what we should feel about this scene?

There's More to It
There is no question that Christians are called to declare truth in this world. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus makes our responsibility very clear:

"'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others'" (Matthew 5:14-16a).

Light never hides from darkness.  It can't; instead it liberates those who live in it, shining into every dark place and exposing darkness for what it is.

Just like the citizens of Jonas' community, the unbelievers among us do not see things the same way we do - they can't.  It used to be that we viewed the world the way they did.  But all that changed when God took our sinful souls (and minds and opinions and convictions) and liberated us into light.

Changing a heart (and mind) is God's work, not ours, so point-by-point arguments are not always our priority.  As Christians we certainly have a responsibility to stand for the truth, but we have never been asked to stop there. 

You see, there's more to the verse.

'"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven'" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Notice that Jesus doesn't ask us to conquer others with our arguments or debilitate them with our logic - though there is certainly a place for well-argued defenses of Biblical truth (1 Peter 3:15).  We are called to shine, yes, but how?

With good works.  That others may see those works and glorify God, not our knowledge or rhetoric.

How Far?
"Then it's our fault," Jonas says, taking our pointing fingers and directing them back toward us.  When people make terrible choices without fully understanding the consequences of their beliefs, we are responsible to shine in that darkness.  Instead of looking down on others because of their decisions, how are we called to treat them?

No spoilage here, but Jonas and the Giver do take action - both to protect the endangered and enlighten the uninformed.  They stand for truth and defend the defenseless - all without belittling those who just can't see things the way they do.  They plead with their community to listen, and ultimately risk everything to open others' eyes to the truth - even when the very citizens they seek to help fight back.

How far would we go - not to destroy those who disagree with us, but to love them?  How much would we risk - time, appearance, public opinion - to humbly open the eyes of those who simply do not see?  What would we sacrifice that they might have what we have been given?

Because it is a gift.

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might" (Ephesians 1:16-19).