The lenses of life

As my wife and I lead Marriage Re-builders and as I lead some men’s ministries, I am always interested in the “lens” in which people view God, other people, and themselves. For example, do you ever see a God that will smile? Do you trust that sinful people can ever love you the way you want?  Do you see yourself as “fearfully and wonderfully made” or “less than” or “worthless”?  Another way of saying this is how fatalistically do you view God, yourself and others.  Do you see just a judgmental God ready to strike lightning when you mess up?  Do you distrust others and can never take any risks emotionally?  Do you see yourself as “less than” or “worthless”?

Many people have a fatalistic view of others and themselves.   This is often called an insecure attachment style.  Psychologists believe this secure or insecure attachment often comes from the early stages of our families of origin.  This attachment style can range from a full blown insecurity or maybe it is just a partial insecurity for specific areas of your life.   It taints how people view  themselves and others and it taints how  people see the world.  This often causes people to live their Christian lives like an Anxious Amy or a Fearful Freddy. Christians living like this have a presentation of truth and life that is less motivated by loving others and more motivated with the reduction of their own anxiety and fear!  This insecurity often causes a striving to be “perfect” in some areas of life for the affection of others as a way of reducing this fear and insecurity?

If we struggle with an incorrect lens of how we view ourself and others, no matter how much truth is poured into us we may never understand that truth because it is passing through the filter of our experiences and past.  No matter how much we see a loving God that came to sinners we still see a God that says “yeah, but .. don’t forget that other thing you did”.  You will always see strings attached to this loving God.  We might  understand Gods truth intellectually but our filters and lenses cause us  to miss the mark as it penetrates our heart!

There is also a religious dimension to the lenses of life that I have noticed over the years.  Many years ago I had a Pastor that did a study on denominational differences.  He compared the various denominations and placed them on a “calvinistic grid” where he showed where they fell on the Calvinistic/Arminian spectrum.  Then side by side he showed where our Lutheran congregation fell.  I found this very interesting.  The Lutherans tend to angle more  toward Calvinism but they also have some Arminian points and believe Gods graces is universal.  I remember my Pastor saying that both the calvinist and the arminian use “human reason” to interpret truth in different ways.  The Lutheran tradition believes some truths are paradoxical and just allow scripture to stand on their own.     Well  out of this Sunday bible study I made a decision. Since my Lutheran viewpoint tended toward Calvinism I decided to read the Arminian viewpoint as if was true and real (although I disagreed with it) before I made my final decision as to what was truth or not.  This led me to read many books and most specifically it led me to read Greg Boyd.  I found him insightful and caring and even presenting the Gospel very well.

As I read Greg Boyds books and listened to his sermons I came to understand the primary “lens” in which Greg viewed the world and scripture.  Greg’s number one lens in which he viewed the world was a lens that God was a loving God and this was the main reason he held to an Arminian view point.  Also Greg was always theologically siding against and debating calvinists because he believed they painted a picture of an unloving God that wanted to strike down sinners and predestine some to Hell.  One of Greg’s books is even titled “Repenting of Religion.”  He wrote this book because Greg believes a lot a damage done in how people view God has been done by Christians that want to discuss sin in unloving ways.  One of Greg’s friends, Rob Bell, that has preached at Greg’s Church wrote a book called “Love wins” and Greg wholeheartedly supports that book

I agree with Rob and Greg that Christians with unloving hearts are very damaging to the Christian faith.  I also agree that God is a God of love.  (John 3).    I have also been to many unsavory Calvinistic churches that want to speak of sin and seldom mention Gods love.  Many churches have grown often because condemnation draws a crowd and they misuse “truth” in ways Jesus Christ never would have.

How we use or abuse “truth” from our specific lens is very important.  Do we use truth in ways Jesus Christ never would have?  Do we view the world in black and white/all or nothing ways with our specific brand of truth (liberal or conservative).  Do we not see our own  sin as we view truth?… or do we just see the sin of others?

I adhere to a lens in how I view God and scripture that is different from both Greg Boyd and Rob Bell.  I see a Gospel that tells me:

We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and (why Jesus had to die for me)     (Part 1)…

AND
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope (why Jesus was glad to die for me) (Part 2).

Truth can not be abused since I have more in common with other sinners than I have differences.

If the Gospel is applied correctly then truth points MORE at me and LESS at others!

Often the lens in which we view God either angles more toward part 1 or more toward part 2.  If we adhere exclusively to part 2 we might be good at reassuring each other of Gods love and how God will work things out.  However, this does not give the dynamics required for spiritual or emotional growth.  Love is unattached to truth!   If we adhere exclusively to part 1, then we discuss sin but we are not drawn to a loving God that came to us while we are still sinners. Truth is stoically detached from love!    Both of these angles by themselves leave us stuck and unchanged.

Only with  a FULL presentation of the Gospel are the dynamics in place for a change in the motivation and the desire to be a new creation in Jesus Christ.  A full presentation of the Gospel makes Jesus “electric” and changes the desires and motivations of the heart from the inside-out.

So as I leave this BLOG topic partially incomplete I leave you with more questions than answers.  What is the lens in which you view yourself and others?  Do you feel security in your relationships and yourself even though we can all sin and mess up?  Are you striving to be something so perfect for the affection of others because of this fear and insecurity?  Or do you see yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made?  Do you have a lens that only sees a loving God or do you only see a God that exposes our sin?  The lens in which you view yourself, others, and God makes a huge difference as we embrace Romans 12:1-2 as an act of worship and try to make our bodies living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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2 thoughts on “The lenses of life

  1. Scott Sholar

    I agree with your thoughts, John. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I don’t agree with Rob Bell’s theology. He is a Universalist, or a believer that everyone is going to heaven. This would be nice, but it isn’t Scriptural. God bless you.

  2. centralityofthegospel Post author

    I hear you Scott, I am in agreement. I am just saying I have read enough of both of them that I know the “lens”… often called a hermeneutic … of how they interpret scripture. Not that I agree with them. The BLOG is not really meant for a discussion of theology but wanted you to know I understand your concerns ! Thanks!

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