Where’d Ya Get Them Spectacles?

When we were young the world around us appeared quite simple, though very big! We believed in Santa Claus, and of course a fairy was the one who left a silver coin under our pillow after we lost a tooth. It was all quite clear. Uncle Jack was mean, dogs were great, cats weren’t, and broccoli was yuck and kissing any one of your own age of the opposite sex was just, well you know how it was, it wasn’t going to ever happen! Most of us born before the sixties grew up with a clear view of God and religion as well. Whatever we were told or taught was unquestionably accepted. Everything was black and white. No stress or worrying about uncertainties. For most of us all was right with our world and the way we saw it was the way it was.

Christian sociologist and theologian Derek J. Tidball writes about the fragility of the worldview we have as children. “The truth is that we don’t not realize just how fragile...and how precarious the interpretation of reality we are fed as children really is.” He goes on to talk of how integral our view of the world and reality becomes to how we live our lives and how we think. He says, “It becomes so integral to us, certainly to begin with, that we do not question it. We see the world through the eyes we have been given. But it is as if we are seeing the world through a pair of spectacles—spectacles that are so much a part of us that we do not realize we are wearing them.”

As we get older friends, teachers, the media etc. present us with new and different views. It can be quite a shock to find that the world we thought we knew, was in many ways different, and not always for the better. The spectacles we were given were flawed. Some feel betrayed and misled and may end up throwing “the baby out with the bath water” and start again from scratch, working their way through each aspect of life, belief and choice of lifestyle. At the other extreme, some become defensive and dig in—refusing to even consider that what they believe might be wrong. They cling to the glasses they were given. In the middle, most of us gradually work through issues over time, examining, modifying or completely changing some viewpoints and holding on to others. The older we get the more we realise the reality we live in is not as straight forward or simplistic as we assumed it to be when we were children. Learning isn’t just a childhood exercise, it is lifelong. There is always more to know in our incredible world—always more challenges and complex problems to puzzle over and try to sort our way through, but also hopefully , more to be amazed and inspired by.

For Christians the ultimate reality is not made up of facts and data, nor of impersonal truth. For Christians, truth is a “who” not a “what”. God is the ultimate truth. He is the personal being who made all things, and who is self-existent. He is before all things, and upon whom all things depend for existence, and for their future. And God is love. Not a mere power, first cause, energy source or Higgs boson particle. God is Father, Son and Spirit. He is in himself a relationship.

God’s “truth” is not just about scientific type facts and data, or formulas to explain the life the universe and everything. As controversial as it may sound, the Bible is not primarily a “manual for life”. It is not a set of precise prescriptive rules for us to simply follow in order to solve all our problems. The Scriptures reveal who God is. They give us a new set of spectacles to see reality through. God’s heart and purpose is for us to join in that reality that is his relational life of love, peace and creativity—Father, Son and Spirit each sharing in harmonious uplifting communion and community. He doesn’t want us to be immature children just following the ABC’s and 123 rote teachings of a written code, as Paul made clear to the Galatians. He wants us to move on beyond just doing as we are told because someone bigger than us told us to (and off to the eternal “naughty corner” or worse if you dare to disobey). We are not created to be shallow minded, or immature in our approach to the grand realities of life, to God, to our own being or the complexities of life (especially of relationships). Our world becomes an increasingly tragic and painful place when we live our lives with simplistic attitudes motivated by fear or pure self-interest or in a matter of fact, impersonal, unloving way.

God gave us life, a mind and body, and the opportunity to know him. And God the Son, chose to step down into his creation, to take on a human life, mind and body. Why “on earth” would he do such an incredible thing? A big part of the reason was to show us himself personally, and his reality. To give us his set of spectacles to help us see life as it really is. God hasn’t left us alone to figure life out for ourselves. And he hasn’t just left us with a book of facts, morals, rules and principles that we just read and ritually follow without much thought or understanding. It reveals the living God who wants an ongoing personal relationship with us.

The New Testament writers often use the Greek word “teleos” to describe the goal of life. It means to become mature, to move towards completeness, to grow to become fully who we are created to be. That is our loving Father’s intention for each and every one of us.

Another Greek word they used often was “metanioia.” It means a change of viewpoint, a change in the way we view life and the world, God, ourselves and others. It entails a willingness to re-examine our views and values. It can require sacrificing dearly treasured myths and beliefs—and changes deep within our hearts and inner being. Changes in the way we see life and reality, and how we respond to it all. Changes in how we respond to God who is the ultimate life and reality.

Like Adam and Eve, like Solomon, Job, Jonah and Thomas—we can question those realities over and over. Many have made bold claims about the time and methods God took to create the earth. Others dispute the Trinity, others insist that Jesus will return at a certain time, or that only those who follow certain “truths” or observances will be part of the kingdom of God. We can believe what we like about the past and the future, creation and prophecy. But our perception and beliefs, no matter how passionate and sure we may be about them, are only true if they reflect actual reality. Reality (God) doesn’t change to suit what we think despite the passion and surety of our beliefs and actions, or how many Scriptures we line up (too often out of context) to try and prove our point. Whether we humans believe him or not, God and his realities, his love and his will and way of life is what it is—is who he is. His love, his nature, his being never changes, never fails, is never inconsistent. He wants us to see him, and more importantly to know and love him as he is, not as we so often mistakenly imagine him to be.

It is like the popular but fictional story of the huge aircraft carrier steaming through the fog in the midst of a storm, sounding its horn. Ahead of them through the dense fog a light was barely visible along with the sound of a clanging bell. Loudly the ship’s captain bellowed out over the radio,

Captain: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision."
Radio response: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision."
Captain: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course."
Radio response: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."
Radio response: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."

Whenever we stand boldly in any entrenched and strongly held positions and views, God answers us in a similar way. “I sent my Son, Jesus Christ to open your eyes to reality, to rescue you from the fogs and storms of life and to give you new spectacles, in fact new eyes, his eyes. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is your light, and through the Holy Spirit he will lead you out of misunderstanding, confusion, darkness and pain. He will help you to understand and live and share in my eternal life of love, joy, peace and hope. Don’t be afraid to surrender your bravado. Don’t fear abandoning your seemingly safe and impregnable ship. But in the end I won’t force you against your will. It is your choice. Please change your course. This is God. Your call!”

Phillip Hopwood