When my daughter was three, we were sitting in the car at the gas pump one day, while my husband was outside, taking care of gasoline business. My precocious child was asking me questions that made my head spin:
“Mommy, is God a body? What does He look like?”
“Mommy, can we see Him?”
“What does spiritual mean?”
I laughingly caught myself bringing up the differences between spiritual and physical beings to my TODDLER, then chilling realized she got it. She GOT it. As much as a toddler can.
“Unless you change and become like the little children …”
I wish I got it. I mean, I understand the basic concepts: physical being = visible, physical body, spiritual being = invisible, spiritual body. Seems pretty simple, right? So why do I keep trying to shove an invisible God into a physical box?
Not like I’m the first, right? The entire nation of Israel for basically all of the bible anticipated a physical king and physical kingdom. They got the message that they were God’s chosen people — the favored children. They were special. And let’s face it, they worked their tails off because of their seat at the table — they had crazy strict requirements for living and worshiping. They put up with a lot of challenges and Godly expectations (and a shockingly lot of instant death of not only themselves but their kids, grand kids … even their cows). They were made slaves to Egypt simply because Joseph brought them into his care during a long-time famine, then all of the right people died and the wrong people chained them up. Yes, God did the whole amazing dry-ground-through-the-Red-Sea thing, but any tiny slip and WHAM! Salt. Death. Fire. No Promised Land. The Israelites had a high bar and no ladder.
So when prophets promised them a new Jerusalem, and new kingdom, they jumped at the assumption that all those people who had abused them for so many years were gonna get what was comin’ to ’em. And get it good.
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people … ” Dan 2:44
Earthly kings needed to be overthrown, earthly wrongs needed to be made right, so of course it was an earthly king and kingdom that was going to change things ’round here. Right?
Even the apostles — after having seen the crazy cool miracles and Jesus coming back from the dead! — even then they asked him, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6, emphasis by me).
They didn’t get it. Jesus … Box.
We see it again with the apostles, arguing over who would be the greatest, who would sit and rule by Jesus on His throne. And Jesus somersaults their thoughts by telling them to be like a child.
“The one who is least among you is greatest …” Luke 9:48
“…whoever wants to be first shall be a slave of you …” Mark 10:44
Upside down. Backwards. Radical.
Spiritual v Physical.
We expect physical and God gives us spiritual.
Woman at the well: “If you knew … who is it that asks you for a drink, you would have asked of him and he would have given you living water …” John 4:10
Not much of a shock that she doesn’t get that and I can almost SEE Jesus’ eyes roll in exasperation (yes, that human need for physical reaction again).
She expected water that gave physical life … He offered water that would save her soul.
Even when our precious Christ and his disciples were celebrating the Passover meal, hours before the crucifixion, Jesus breaks physical bread and pours wine and tells them “take and eat, this is my body …” “the is my blood of the covenant …”
Did our Savior really want us to eat physical flesh and drink physical blood? No (and gross!). These were physical symbols of spiritual things. God knows we need the physical, because no matter how smart we think we are, we just can’t fully comprehend the spiritual.
Are we doing it again?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” John 1:1
The word of God … in the John reference, that couldn’t have been our bible, or even the Torah, as obviously we didn’t even have DIRT in The Beginning. Nothing physical. Holy Spirit .. Jesus … either works here.
Different scriptures seem to refer to Jesus, others to the Spirit. Some do refer to actual spoken or written words. I’m sure those of you with knowledge of ancient Greek could go to town with the various references.
But is it possible that we are putting too much emphasis on the written word of God and not enough on the spiritual?
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” Heb 4:12
I’ve often wondered (secretly) how the pages in a book that is 2,000 years old could be alive in today’s society. I mean, of course the principles still hold true, and so much no longer applies … women wearing gold jewelry, men having to have long hair, sandal stuff and feet washing and not eating shrimp (gasp) and not wearing mixed-fiber clothing and on and on and on … I stood firm on my faith and belief that the bible says it’s alive so it must be, but it seemed a bit strange to have an unwavering belief in something simply because it told me to, you know?
Before you tattoo HERETIC across my forehead, let me quickly say I BELIEVE IN MY BIBLE as the inspired physical word of God. But I also believe in the spiritual Word of God that lives inside me, and penetrates my soul.
NOT believing in that devalues the sacrifice of Christ.
Isn’t that what the Pharisees did? They emphasized the physical. The scrolls over people. The law over love. They weren’t bad people — they loved God and were committed to complete obedience of the ink on their scrolls. But along the way, the got their priorities upside down and backwards.
“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to help them move them,” Matt. 23:4 (NIV)
In John 16, Jesus tells his disciples that He must leave so that the Helper, the Advocate, the Comforter can come to them and “prove to the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” Christ died to save us from our sin, to redeem us. He also died so that the Spirit could come live inside us and guide us, teach us.
I dare say having a piece of the One who inspired the book actually camped out inside me breathes new fresh life into those pages every time I open them.
When we work to flip our thinking … to rotate our priorities … interesting things happen.
Take Jesus for example. Think about it … he was with God. An actual part of God. And he had to leave heaven and come down here to live with us. On earth. In all of our ignorance. He had to suffer great physical pain, but wasn’t the spiritual pain even worse? When he was bleeding on those rough-hewn woods beams, and took all of the sins of the world for all time unto himself, he had to die. And not just physically, but spiritually. He had to have complete separation from his Father in order for the sin to truly be dead. And then and only then could he resurrect and save us all.
When we take communion, we always focus on his physical pain … but we never talk about the spiritual blackness Christ had to experience. And being both a spiritual and physical being, he had the ultimate pain within both realms. For us.
Death itself. If we think upside down like God, then when a loved one here on earth dies at a young age, wouldn’t that be God blessing them more richly by letting them come to heaven early? But instead, we think physically, and wonder if God is paying attention at all, or even punishing us by allowing/causing a human to die.
“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” Isaiah 57:1 (NIV)
Physical v spiritual.
The armor of God: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
I was taught in Bible class with felt boards and cartoon stick-ons that the sword of the Spirit was the B-I-B-L-E. What happens if we do the flip thing again, and assume the Spirit IS the word of God. Then instead of assuming nailing our memory verses is enough to defend our souls, to attack our enemy like a true sword we would have the SPIRIT OF GOD as our weapon, and all that goes with Him — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (OH, and Michael and Gabriel and the host of angel warriors, of course). What a weapon! What couldn’t we accomplish when attacking the powers of the dark with those weapons in are arsenal??
“Now we see in a mirror dimly, then face to face …”
Government coup … eternal kingdom. Crowned king … heavenly throne. To become first … become last. To be best … be a servant. Law … love.
Maybe the mirror in I Corinthians 13 isn’t too dim for us pitiful humans to see into, maybe we just can’t see clearly because the image is backwards to our human eyes. And when we one glorious day approach the magnificent all-knowing Father, will see through HIS eyes our true reflections.