Christianity versus Mashed Potatoes

My daughter doesn’t always enjoy eating, and being a stubborn little girl–I can’t imagine who she inherited that from–she simply won’t eat unless it suits her fancy.  We’re trying to break this particular habit by removing alternatives: if she doesn’t eat her dinner, she can’t have anything else to eat until morning.  We save her dinner though, in the event she decides to get hungry later.  That way we can say, “You’re hungry?  Well, that’s because you didn’t eat this.  Here’s another chance.”

So far it’s not working.  She takes stubbornness to Olympian heights.  And maybe this is a bad plan on our part anyway.  Parenting is a hit or miss endeavor.  But in any event, this is why we had a pile of mashed potatoes in our garbage this morning.

And then I needed to throw something out.  Being the sort of person who assigns fairly arbitrary goals for my minor tasks, I decided that I would try to land my garbage in the middle of the mashed potatoes.  I succeeded, creating a bizarre sculpture of garbage standing at a strange angle in a plane of white goop.  In garbage.

Here is my point.  When the thing I dropped hit the mashed potatoes, it plowed into them a bit.  If I were to take it out again, assuming I could extricate it carefully, I would see in the potatoes a perfect impression of what I had dropped.

This is not what Christians mean when we talk about the image of Christ.  It isn’t an impression that’s stamped into us, or a brand, or any such.  All of those things involve removal and replacement.  Christianity is about death and resurrection, which is entirely different.

Now, there are some obvious objections, not from non-Christians, who may or may not care about the distinction, but from Christians.  For example, they might quote Paul who says that he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal 2:19).  That certainly sounds like replacement.  (It actually sounds like possession.)  Or they might quote John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NASB).

Actually, the second is said far too often to mean something entirely horrible, but that’s for another time.

In any event, Christ’s goal was redemption, not destruction.  We were each created to be ourselves, and we were created through the Son (John 1:3).  To abolish that creation by replacement would be to work at cross purposes, hardly fitting if Christ is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NASB).

Contrariwise, Christ living in us provides fulfillment.  It’s the returning of a broken creation to the one who designed it and cares for it, a returning of a broken toy to the toymaker, so that he might finish in us what he started in us.

Now as it happens, that fulfillment isn’t easy.  Nothing can be resurrected that is not first allowed to die.  That’s a hard thing to think about, and much harder to experience.  It’s relatively easy to misunderstand.  The goal of it isn’t loss but release.

For example, I might give to Christ my desire for affirmation–which tends to manifest in the pursuit of popularity and such–because it’s a broken part of created me with which I cannot be trusted.  The part of me that demands control over it has to be silenced.  The part of me that opposes Christ’s entire freedom with created me, that part has to die.

But so that created me might live.  It isn’t the joy of the toymaker to collect toys, but to give toys away.  It isn’t the joy of Christ to destroy creation but to complete it.  I stop demanding the right to mistreat a thing, so that he can give the thing back to me.

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Sunday, 7 July 2013

1 Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” 5 Then the king of Aram said, “Go now….” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
–2 Kings 5:1-5a, 9-14 (NASB)

Naaman was a man with two problems.  The first was obvious: he was a leper.  It was Continue reading