Monday, March 15, 2010

Unbend This: A Truck and an Ass

Leonard Griffin is a pastor of a wonderful church in Phoenix, Arizona. The blog is not really about him but I want to at least say that he and his wife Sharon may be two Christians I admire as much as I have ever met.

Anyway, like I said, the blog is not about him.

It’s about a story he once told me to illustrate the meaning of “depravity.”

He once bought a truck which he really liked. However, it kept pulling to the right.

He complained to the people who had sold him the truck. They promised to take care of it.

They aligned the truck. They balanced the wheels. After all of that, the truck still pulled to the right.

Finally, the mechanics discovered the bent axle. As it turns out, aligning the front-end and balancing the tires of a truck cannot fix that truck if the core issue is a bent axle!

When problem is that serious, a superficial solution doesn’t help.

Christians believe that human beings, like Leonard’s truck, are profoundly bent. That is what we mean by the doctrine of depravity. It doesn’t mean that we are not good looking, nice, or well mannered. It means that our axle is bent. It means that our attempts to correct our most basic flaw will not work. Our problem lies at a deeper level than any human effort can reach. A bent man cannot unbend himself. All the people who try to “unbend’ us, however noble, intelligent or gifted, are themselves “bent.” To unbend a human being requires the help of an Unbent Being.

Christians believe that there are deep laws governing the universe. The ancient Chinese described these “laws” as the “Tao.”

(My last blog was a reflection on what that means.)

Christians agree with Taoists that there is such a system of “laws” that undergird the universe. We disagree with Taoists that human beings can learn how to live in accordance with the Tao. We can discern what is right but we cannot actually do what we know is right – at least not all the time. The road – the Way (for that is what the word “Tao” means) – is straight enough, and we can certainly learn to see it, but when we try to drive on that road, we discover that we are driving crooked. Just like my friend Leonard.

Christians believe that an Unbent Man once came into the world to unbend us.

Jesus Christ was God “enfleshed.” He knows how we are made, for what we are made, and what keeps us from living in accordance with how we were made.

Through the the death of this innocent Unbent Man, Jesus Christ, justice was satisfied, evil was defeated, and redemption was made possible

By His death on the cross, Christ destroyed our sins and offered repair for our bent souls.

One of the Easter hymns of ancient Orthodox churches puts it this way: “He trampled down death by death.”

Some of the Church Fathers described the death of Christ as a victim on a hook. The enemy of our souls, the Evil Bender of souls, took the bait. He ingested the goodness and death-destroying power of the Son of God. Evil attempted to absorb goodness and revived a blow from which it will never recover.

As a result, the entire universe will someday be unbent.

Christians believe that after his death and decent into death, Christ resurrected. He then ascended into heaven to take His place at the right hand of God, the Father. He will be there until the work of universe unbending is completed.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ were not only personal victories for Jesus then; they were “vicarious victories,” that is to say, “done in the place of.”

All who believe in Jesus, will receive every benefits that He won in His struggles with death, hell, and the grave. (See Romans 3:35; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:3)

In Christ, God became human. Because of that we are now clothed with the nature of God. (See 2 Peter 1: 3,4)

Not only that, but one day every speck of dirt in the cosmos will be unbent, redeemed, sanctified, and glorified.

This is what we mean when we speak of the “vicarious work of Christ.”

Oh, today in the One Year Bible, we read about Balaam and his famous talking ass (Numbers 22).

It’s a funny story and I must comment on it.

It is a satirical account of a man of God with a reputation for displaying supernatural gifts. However this great prophet – God’s man of glory and power –is dumber than the beast he rides on.

The ass gets it right.

The prophet gets it wrong.

I was just thinking about how wonderful it is that in Leonard’s case, the situation was reversed!


Anonymous said...

I recently read the C.S. Lewis book, "Out of the Silent Planet." It was an odd book, but interesting anyway. He talks a lot about "bent" men. I like the analogy to a bent axel.

As for Balaam's talking ass, that one just cracked me up this morning. I could just picture my cat turning to me and saying, "Would you get me some fresh water please? I can't believe you've had me all this time and you still forget to give me fresh water every morning. You are driving me crazy."

He didn't say it verbally, but his expressive looks told me all I needed to know. LOL.

MLH said...

Life is very deceiving, huh? How can we ever really know for sure?

Antonia (Toni) said...

This morning before going to work my husband said today's reading - One Year Bible - was about Balaam and his donkey. He said what caught his attention was that Balaam did not act surprised when the donkey spoke to him. And on top of that Balaam actually talked to the donkey.

I too would have been surprised or afraid that I was losing it.

We are "bent" huh? =)

tiktok said...


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.