Removing The Planks

plank.jpgMy daughter has been asking me to post on the hoopla concerning the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass.  I’ve received at least four emails from different sources warning me about the movie and about the book series (His Dark Materials) the movie is based upon.  So I checked up on the author of the books and came across a quote from him that made me very sad.  He was speaking about C.S. Lewis and his series about Narnia.  Many children and parents who see the trailer for The  Golden Compass with its Narnia-like special effects will assume this new movie is more of the same.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  The author himself, self-described athiest Philip Pullman, despised C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books:

“I thought they were loathsome,” he said of those books, “full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself.”

Why am I saddened?  I am sad because Pullman thinks that Christianity’s main creed is to “despise and hate people unlike yourself.”  He carries this belief into his novels, and children who read these books will be forced to reconcile his underlying messages with what they have been taught about God.  If they have been taught nothing, then in the absence of knowledge they will believe that which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Christianity is not about hate.  It is about love and has been, even before the time of Christ.  Look at Leviticus 19:

17 ” ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.

18 ” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

What is it about this message that is offensive to Pullman?  Is it the not hating part?  The not seeking revenge part?  The not bearing a grudge part?  Or how about the loving part?  I’m guessing it might be the rebuking your neighbor part that Pullman and others don’t like.  In our culture of moral relativism — where each person determines his or her own morals — being held accountable for something by a neighbor takes on the hue of hatred.

However, holding someone accountable (rebuking our neighbor) does not mean we have evil and hateful intentions.  In fact, we are commanded just the opposite in Zechariah:

16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.

But Jesus takes it so much farther!  There is nothing but love in his eyes, love for those who are lost.  Love for those like Pullman who think that Christ is nothing more than a bully.  Matthew chapter 5 records one of the most radical messages ever spoken about love, from Jesus himself:

 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Does that sound like a message of hatred?  Does it sound as if Jesus hates people who are non-religious?  I don’t think he could have made it more plain: we are to love our enemies!  Who are our enemies?  The Greek word for enemy is echthros, and it means someone who is hostile to or opposes another or who opposes God in his mind.  So our enemy in this case is more than just terrorists or robbers.  By this definition, an echthros is someone who opposes God in their minds.  Based on Pullman’s earlier quote, I think we can define him as an echthros.

What would Jesus have us do with the echthros?  It’s interesting that where the NIV tells us to “pray” for those who persecute us, the original Greek word means so much more than just pray.  The Greek word is eulogeo  — and look at what that word means in English:

… to praise, celebrate with praises,
…to invoke blessings
…to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers
…to ask God’s blessing on a thing
…pray God to bless it to one’s use
…pronounce a consecratory blessing on
of God
…to cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on
…favored of God, blessed

Whoa!  Hold the phone!  Jesus tells us that instead of griping about the Philip Pullmans of the world, we are to LOVE them.  Then he expands on that  definition and tells us to BLESS them, to pray for blessings to be bestowed on them.  That means that if I come across Philip Pullman in a bookstore, I am not to scream at him, ignore him, picket him, or throw red paint on his clothes.

So what else does Jesus tell me to do?  Look at this again:

And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?

The Greek word for greet is aspazomai.  Let me tell you, my eyes are wide open and I’m feeling some major conviction creeping in now that I understand what this word means.  Aspazomai is more than merely greeting someone.  It is to draw to one’s self, to joyfully receive and welcome.  Blue Letter Bible’s Lexicon puts it this way:

Used of those accosting anyone; of those who visit one to see him a little while, departing almost immediately afterwards; to pay respects to a distinguished person by visiting him; of those who greet one whom they meet in the way; a salutation was made not merely by a slight gesture and a few words, but generally by embracing and kissing, a journey was retarded frequently by saluting.

Receiving/greeting/meeting with joy.  Jesus would have us joyfully receive those who oppose God.  He would have us LOVE them.  Do you do that?  I confess here and now that I do not.  My “not rocking the boat” mentality would rather just ignore someone who was actively anti-God.  Or I’d write a letter to the editor or say a little prayer that God would open their eyes.  But most of all, I’d try to avoid them because I’d be afraid of them and what they might say to me.  What if they said something mean?  What if they persecuted me?  What if I couldn’t think of anything to say back to them?

I’m actually a guarded person.  When a neighbor stops by, where do we usually speak?  If it’s someone I don’t know well, we usually end up speaking on the front porch, with the door closed behind us. Not very welcoming, is it?  Not very loving, either.  What does that say to others about Christianity?  I cringe to say it, but it looks like I’m beginning to see at least one reason why Philip Pullman is so anti-God. It might be because of closed-door Christians….like me.

Jesus ends his statements by telling us to be perfect…teleios.  It means being completed.  The process of writing this blog has showed me some ways that I can grow to be more completed, more teleios.  I have gone from being saddened…to being convicted, to desiring to be more teleios.

What is it about removing planks from our own eyes?

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