[Updated from the archives.]
Some Bible passages make me stop and think. It’s not only the theology of those passages but their vivid word imagery that leaps off the page.
Of bears and fools
“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.” (Proverbs 17:12.)
Here’s how I imagine that playing out: I’m standing on a path. In one direction I see a bear who’s just been robbed of her cubs. She’s worried … confused … mad!
In the other direction I see a fool bent on folly. Which way to go? Right … left … which way to go?!
The Bible insists I should go meet the bear because it’s better than meeting up with the fool. OK, I’m off to see the bear! (Nice bear. Lost your cubs, have you? I can help, really I can. Niiiice bear.)
Taking a millstone for a swim
Or how about this imagery from Jesus:
If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6.)
Say I’m about to cause someone to stumble in their faith. Jesus says I should instead sail off to deep ocean, tie a millstone around my neck and roll myself off the side of the boat.
Down I go, fighting to hold onto my last breath, lungs bursting and aflame. I try to keep from taking in water but still it fills my lungs. The ocean gets murkier as I drop deeper from the sunlight above, and soon all around me is utter blackness. Water pressure builds as I sink lower, lower. I am crushed – my body literally crushed – by the time I hit bottom. The millstone anchors me in place while the currents drag and push and twist me first one way and then another.
Eventually I’ll be eaten … dissolved … gone.
And Jesus says that’s better.
That last one a little macabre for you? This next one (again from Jesus) is more in the nature of slapstick:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42.)
Picture me looking at a sister (or brother) in Christ and I think, “She’s got issues, and I’m just the person to do something about it!”
So I reach for that speck in her eye. The only problem is that there’s a plank in my eye.
So what happens? I whack my sister upside the head as I try to get close enough to remove her eye speck.
“Ow!” she says.
“Hold still, I’m trying to get that speck out of your eye.”
“Quit dancing around!”
Whack … whack … whack!
“Ow … ow … OW!”
Of these two people, which one really needs a whack upside the head?