Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Sides of the Coin

I was having a bagel and coffee with a friend one day when he paid me a compliment: he said that I had an uncanny ability to take a look at something, turn it slightly and show a perspective that was completely new. He went on to say that sometimes that makes people feel uncomfortable, that they have a certain way that they want to look at things and then I come around, point out what I see and pull them out of their comfort zone. (Hmmm… at least I think it was a compliment.)
 
So whether it’s a blessing or a curse, that’s just how I’m wired. As I was graduating from college and entering the Navy’s flight training program, I had to take a test that gave me two dimensional pictures and asked me to translate into 3 dimensions. It was an easy exercise for me and I blew the test away. It was supposed to be an indicator of how good I would be as a pilot, but the truth is it didn’t take into account other aspects of how I’m wired. 
 
When it comes to perspective, I can look at a coin and intuitively know there is another side, one that is hidden from view. I can recognize that no matter how thin, there’s a dimension of depth and 360 degrees to explore. Other people may look at the same coin and only see the one side. Still others may have the same understanding that I do, even understand the depth, but move on as something that isn’t of interest. That’s fine. We’re all wired differently, but I like to explore the angles.
 
Take for example the following two verses from Hebrews 12:14-15:
 
 
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
 
At first glance, it mostly makes sense: 
 
  • Be at peace with everyone
  • Be holy
  • Something about “grace”
  • Don’t be bitter
 
Check. Move on.
 
But I look at it again, searching for depth and flipping it over to examine the coin more closely. Obviously, there’s a connection between living in peace and being holy, and it seems apparent to me that it’s with respect to my relationship with other people. Others can see God reflected through the holy living of God’s people. Recalling that holiness is to be “set apart for God”, I reflect on how my being reserved for Him means that His ways become my ways. Just as Jesus said to His apostles that they knew the Father because they knew Jesus, I understand that my actions reflect Who Jesus is when I am truly living a holy life.
 
Then I look at it more closely and I realize something about holiness. It hits me that I can’t see God unless I’m living a life that’s set apart for Him. I’m called to be holy not just to reflect His love to others, but I need to be holy to see His face. After all, that’s really why I’m in this game: to be with Him. When caught in grasp of sinful behavior, it’s the nature of man to hide from God, believing there’s no possible way He could want a relationship with a “sinner”. He is so good, pure, powerful, and perfect… why would He want to be near a wretch like me? Many at this point start to accuse God before He can accuse them: “If God is so good / strong / all-knowing, then why did He allow ____ to happen?” And to make ourselves feel better, we make up a story to explain why we don’t need to be faithful to God or to be set apart for Him.
 
So without holiness we can’t see the Lord, which leads to a whole new revelation as I turn the Holiness coin over to see Grace on the other side, and I recall that grace is “to be given what I don’t deserve”. I recall how God so loved the world that He sent angels as heralds, proclaiming peace and good will toward men. I remember how He sent his only begotten Son into the world with names that mean “Yahweh Saves” and “God is with us” as part of His message of peace, and that as proof of His great love for us, Jesus was sacrificed in our place to take the death we deserve so that anyone who believes in and calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved from death and have live forever with Him as His adopted children and co-inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. God wants a relationship with us despite all our un-holy actions: past, present and future.
 
But I look at the Grace / Holiness coin again, and I see something I overlooked at first: just as holiness pointed in two directions of 1) other men and 2) God, so does grace. Receiving God’s grace, I have the great need to extend it to others. Although striving for holiness, I am still a sinner in need of God’s grace. How can I believe in His grace and love unless I extend it toward others? And just as I am in great need of His grace and love, even when I don’t realize my necessity, I am called to reflect God’s nature in my dealings with them regardless of how they have wronged me. How can I be bitter toward someone who has hurt me if I truly understand God’s grace? Regardless of where we are in our spiritual journey, we must keep the perspective that all our righteousness is as filthy rags compared to His perfection.
 
So I see God and I show God when I seek to be holy, set apart for Him however He chooses to use me. And I extend grace as I receive grace, a gift that is neither earned nor deserved, as a response to this great love He has for me.
 
Turning this coin around in my hand, I realize what a priceless treasure it truly is, grateful to the God Who has given me this undeserved gift. I wonder how I should spend it today?

copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)