[This first appeared as a guest post I wrote for Nick McDonald’s old blog. You should check out his new place if you haven’t become a regular reader already!]
Some Bible passages make me stop and think, not because of their theology but for the vivid imagery that practically leaps off the page. Here’s one of my favorites from the Old Testament:
“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.” (Proverbs 17:12.)
I’m standing on a path. In one direction I see a bear just robbed of her cubs. She’s worried … confused … stressed … mad! In the other direction I see a fool bent on folly. Which way to go? The Bible says meet the bear, because meeting up with the fool is worse. Ok, I’m off to see the bear! (Nice bear. Lost your cubs, have you? I can help, really I can. Niiiice bear.)
Or how about this imagery from Jesus:
If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6.)
Say I’m tempted to cause someone to stumble in their faith. Jesus says I should instead tie a millstone around my neck and roll myself off the side of a boat into the deepest ocean. Down I go, lungs bursting and aflame, fighting to hold onto my last breath. I try to keep from taking in water, but still it fills my lungs. The ocean gets murkier as I drop deeper from the sunlight above, and soon all around me is utter blackness. Water pressure builds on my body with every foot I sink. I am crushed – my body’s literally crushed – by the time I hit bottom, with the millstone anchoring me in place, currents dragging and pushing and twisting me one way and then another. Eventually I’ll be eaten, dissolved, gone. And Jesus says that’s better. (Hmm, shouldn’t have caused that little one to stumble, I guess.)
That last one a little macabre for you? This next one (again from Jesus) is more in the nature of slapstick:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42.)
There I am looking at my sister (or brother) in Christ and I think, “She’s got issues, and I’m just the person to do something about it!” So I reach for that speck in her eye. The only problem is that there’s a plank in my eye, so what happens?
I whack my sister in the head.
“Ow!” she says.
“Hold still, I’m trying to get that speck out of your eye.” Whack!
“Quit dancing around or I’ll never get that speck!”
Whack … whack … whack!
“Ow … ow … OW!”
Of these two people, which one really needs a whack upside the head? (Hint: it’s not her.)