One of my favorite parables of Jesus is the Transfiguration. I call it a parable – it’s actually a factual narrative – because it functions parabolically.
Following Peter’s confession of Jesus as God’s Son, Jesus takes the disciples up on a mountain where His appearance is transformed dramatically. The scripture is clear that it was His appearance – not His person – that was transformed. He is Who He is and there is no transformation possible beyond that. So who gets transformed, in the sense that their eyes are opened and they finally see their master for Who He has been all along? It is the disciples who are changed, and this makes it a parable; this transformation in the presence of transfiguration is the counter-intuitive ending.
When the reader realizes it is the courageous confession of one that – in the previous chapter – sets up transformation for the many, this revelation only deepens the parable. The secondary revelation demonstrates the healing value of one personal repentance for many persons needing repentance, and so authenticates the radical relational life God has prepared for us. Viewing The Shack triggered such a parabolic revelation for me.
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One of the principal scenes in the story depicts main character Mack being challenged to choose which of his two surviving children goes to heaven and which to hell. He refuses to judge either of them – after freely judging a number of evildoers, including his alcoholic father and the murderer of his daughter – declaring instead that he would rather face eternal death for himself than for his child. In that moment he is shocked to recognize why God is so slow to judge anyone – all ones being His. In that cinematic moment I was confronted with how easily I judge children of God I regard as bullies – as one example. The Lord reminded me – through this film – that all my enemies are His children. Like the disciples two thousand years ago in Galilee, I saw the Lord in His glory through my own newly-opened eyes. It is parabolic to a major-league degree.
Hours after viewing the film, I sat at my word processor and found images of many leaders of politically correct goon squads – bullies all – flashing before me from the news items I read. I told myself they are just a lot of broken people who would rather see the rest of us broken than be healed themselves, said this to myself as I looked at them with scorn. Only then did I hear my Lord saying, “Are they not broken as Mack was broken in the movie, as you and so many you love are broken in real life? Do I not love and long for them as I love you? Are you not called to love as well as live in my image?”
Just for clarity’s sake, let me reiterate what I always say and continue to believe about bullies: They must be stopped before they can be healed – for their sakes as well as for their victims’ sakes. God honors us when we sacrifice ourselves, not when we sacrifice others. Yet how twisted can it be when we take pleasure in the suffering of others – even and perhaps especially when we are quite certain they deserve it? I remember the wisdom of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings when he reminds Frodo he lacks the power to bestow life and so should be reluctant to take it – even from a wretch like Gollum who has suffered deeply and yet has an unseen destiny to fulfill. But mostly I remember seeing in my heart the tears of my Lord for those I dare despise.
Fight to stop bullies we recognize, yes. But pray for and seek healing when that becomes a possibility and even before it becomes possible – YES.
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This movie is not perfect. I can wish it demonstrated the clarity of the book when it comes to bringing a murderer to justice and providing closure for grieving parents in the discovery of, and delivery to, a final resting place for the body of Missy. But I will not forget the power of the overhead shot of the garden, showing its heavenly beauty and perfect symmetry when it looks like a totally random mess at ground level. This visual is not possible in a book and is a perfect rendering of the difference – the parabolic difference – between God’s point of view and ours. It is His point of view we are invited to adopt.
Jesus says to go and learn what He means when He says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Seeing this film is a good step on that journey.
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