Sunday, March 2, 2008

Knowing Him

Jesus as Icon

A friend shared the following essay in Sunday School this morning, and it had a positive impact on me. I know that in talking to my clients on a daily basis, I often mention the fact that we as human beings tend to live with routines that develop habits, and sometimes these habits don’t welcome change in the routine.

There are times when use of auto-pilot in our activities is a necessary means of avoiding burnout. However, this should never govern our relationship with God or His Son. If living with mindless routine can harm the health of a marriage relationship, imagine what it can do to our relationship with the Savior. Given that this is the most vital relationship we can possibly ever have (see my June 24th entry), we had better recognize the need to take conscious and pro-active steps to make this relationship a living relationship and anything but routine.

The focus of my thoughts here is an article – a book chapter, actually – by a minister at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio named Max Lucado. He has written over 50 books with 28 million of them in print, so I am surprised that I had never heard of him before. Having read this, I probably will get better acquainted with him.

He writes of how he spent a summer while a college student in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and first saw the gigantic statue called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This mammoth monolith stands 90 feet tall on a 2,330 foot tall mountain that stands within the city limits and is visible from all over the city.

Reverend Lucado continues: “Below me was Rio. Seven million people swarming on the lush green mountains that crash into the bright blue Atlantic. Behind me was the Christ the Redeemer statue. As I looked at the towering edifice through my telephoto lens, two ironies caught my attention.

“I couldn’t help but notice the blind eyes. Now, I know what you are thinking – all statues have blind eyes. You are right, they do. But it’s as if the sculptor of this statue intended that the eyes be blind. There are no pupils to suggest vision. There are no circles to suggest sight. There are only Little Orphan Annie openings.

“I lowered my camera to my waist. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind? Eyes fixated on the horizon, refusing to see the mass of people at its feet?

“I saw the second irony as I again raised my camera. I followed the features downward, past the strong nose, past the prominent chin, past the neck. My focus came to rest on the cloak of the statue. On the outside of the cloak there is a heart – a Valentine’s heart; a simple heart.

“A stone heart.

“The unintended symbolism staggered me. What kind of redeemer is this? Heart mad of stone? Held together not with passion and love, but by concrete and mortar. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind eyes and stony heart?

“I’ve since learned the answer to my own question: What kind of redeemer is this? Exactly the kind of redeemer most people have.

“Oh, most people would not admit to having a blind redeemer with a stone heart. But take a close look.

“For some, Jesus is a good luck charm: the ‘Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer.’ Pocket sized, handy, easily packaged, easily understood, easily diagramed. You can put his picture on your wall or you can stick it in your wallet as insurance. You can frame him. Dangle him from your rear view mirror or glue him to your dashboard.

“His specialty? Getting you out of a jam. Need a parking place? Rub the redeemer. Need help on a quiz? Pull out the rabbit’s foot. No need to have a relationship with him. No need to love him. Just keep him in your pocket next to your four-leaf clover.

“For many he’s an ‘Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer.’ New jobs. Pink Cadillacs. New and improved spouses. Your wish is his command. And what’s more, he conveniently reenters the lamp when you don’t want him around.

“For others, Jesus is a ‘Monty Hall Redeemer.’ ‘All right, Jesus, let’s make a deal. For firty-two Sundays a year, I’ll put on a costume – coat and tie, hat and hose – and I’ll endure any sermon you throw at me. In exchange, yhou give me the grace behind pearly gate number three.’

“The Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer, the Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer, the Monty Hall Redeemer – few demands, no challenges, no need for sacrifice, no need for commitment.”

Although many conservative Christians fault us Mormons for believing that we have to do something toward our salvation (after all, who are we to take Paul literally when he writes: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” - Philippians 2:12?), this good man states unequivocally that we must do much more than just call him “Lord, Lord” (cf. Luke 6: 46).

If we want to be with the Lord for eternity we need to know Him. You must know Him to the best of our abilities here, and we must continue to seek after Him after our mortal probation. We must love Him, and if we love Him we will show Him the respect of keeping His commandments and doing His will.

As we continue to do His will and obey Him, we personify His advice to the Nephrites (and, of course, to us): “…what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).“

Here and now, as Natural Men, this is anything but routine or habitual for us. It takes conscious effort – for now. After all, it is not accidental that He tells us that what separates those who dwell in His presence for eternity from the “honorable men of the earth” who enjoy a lesser glory is that the first group remains “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”

For this, we need a real and loving relationship with the Lord. Seeing Him as an icon or no more than a graven image will not save us. But, as we all know, nothing is more important.


Hank Bidu said...

Wow, I tend to rail on others who want to hold Christ as a good luck charm; but upon some reflection, as a result of this post, I started to see that I too, have a tendency to by the Aladdin's Lamp follower. 'Hey I need some help. Are you there?' Why is it that it can be so hard to be more devoted to a being who has done so much for me? Could it be that the only reason is I have never met Him? And if so, am I so shallow as to not take the time to "meet" Him? Good reflection.

Martikos said...

I wish I had come with the concept on my own...
I would think that all of us find our selves in one of the three categories on occasion. I suppose that if we were perfect, we wouldn't be here. But awareness is the first step toward change, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

What great insight. I never thought of it that way before. Thank you for sending it to me.