Frozen

Spoiler alert: I suggest you watch the film before reading this.

 

Conceal, Don’t Feel

Lots of us, like Elsa, believe that if people really knew us fully, and saw all our flaws, there’s no way they would love us. So we don’t want people to know us fully, we want to isolate ourselves. This is partly selfish; we don’t want to give people the chance to judge us when they find out our shameful secrets, so we don’t let anyone get close enough to see the things we’re ashamed of. It’s also partly out of concern for others; like Elsa, we know we have some habits that have the potential to hurt other people if they get too close, so for their own sake we try to keep people at a safe distance away from the destructive storm going on inside us.

(In a vain attempt to salvage a tiny remnant of masculine respectability from a post about a Disney princess film, I’ll point to The Wall and Hurt as a couple of other examples of these concepts appearing in popular culture.)

 

Setting Elsa Free

Like Elsa, we do need forgiveness for things we’ve done, because we have done things that really hurt people and are offences against God. This is what The Bible calls “sin”.

Elsa was amazed by Anna’s love for her, because she knew she didn’t deserve it.

Elsa: “You sacrificed yourself for me?”

Anna: “I love you.”

The message of Christianity is that the God who already knows everything there is to know about us, including all our dirty secrets, loves us so much he was willing to be crucified in order to remove our guilt.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

He didn’t do that because we deserved it; he did it because he loves us. And he doesn’t love us because we’re good people (we’re not!); he loves us because that’s an expression of who he is. He is love (1 John 4:8).

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” – Romans 5:8

 

Confession

Anna: “Please don’t shut me out again.

Please don’t slam the door.

You don’t have to keep your distance anymore.”

As Anna did with her sister, The Bible encourages people not to isolate themselves, but to confess the things they’ve done wrong, to bring them out into the open (James 5:16). And when we confess our sins to Christians, the response should reflect God’s response (if only this was always the case), i.e. without dismissing the problem as insignificant, we point back to the gospel of God’s love and sacrificial death for sinners, and his power to heal.

 

Thawing Anna’s heart

“An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”

For a while we’re lead to believe Frozen is just like those other rubbish movies where the “act of true love” is going to be a kiss. But actually it turned out that the act of true love that saved Anna was the sacrifice of her life to save her sister. Not only did Anna’s sacrifice save Elsa from the storm going on inside her (and from Hans), it thawed Anna’s own heart. Likewise, following Jesus involves sacrificing ourselves for others.

It might not always be as drastic as putting ourselves at risk of actual physical death for someone else; it might be as simple as giving up our time or money to give someone food or clothing, or visit them when they’re sick (Matthew 25:31-46), but “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” – Luke 17:33. To be clear, the point is not that by making those sacrifices we will earn ourselves a thawed heart, but that the act of giving is itself good for us (Acts 20:35).

 

So the more I think about it, the more I like this movie. Although, like Trevin Wax, I’m a bit confused that ‘Let It Go’ has been the hit song that’s come out of it. Why are people apparently celebrating Elsa’s isolation rather than her restoration?

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Rejection

How does our experiencing rejection glorify God?

It shows us something of what it’s like from God’s point of view when we turn away from him, thinking we will find something better somewhere else.

When someone turns me down, it’s disappointing, but understandable.

But when we turn away from God, it’s an inexcusable outrageous offence against the honour that’s rightfully his as the creator of the universe.

He would be completely justified in destroying us immediately.

So for me, the reminder that he hasn’t done so, despite the innumerable occasions when I’ve chosen to seek pleasure in something else rather than God, is a reminder of his amazing patience with me.

In fact, even though God knew full well in advance how often I would turn away from him, he gave up his son to pay the penalty that my sin deserves, so that I could be forgiven for all the things I’ve done wrong, and be reconciled to him.

He even did that knowing full well that even after I learned about his amazing sacrifice for me, I would still allow myself to be drawn away to look for pleasure in other things instead of him.

That’s glorious self-giving love.

Power Made Perfect In Weakness

This’ll be the last one of these for a while.

I recently did a Bible Study at church on 2 Corinthians 12v7-10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As usual, if you’d like to read the whole thing in one go, you can do so here. (This is two weeks’ worth, so it’s even longer than previous ones.)

Alternatively, here it is in shorter chunks:

Context/Introduction

“a thorn was given me in the flesh…”

“to keep me from becoming conceited…”

“I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”

Re-intro/“My grace is sufficient”

“the power of Christ may rest upon me”

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses”

Am I David?

I just got back from the Acts 29 Western Europe Annual Conference, where Matt Chandler was one of the speakers.

In his seminar on Men as Gospel Ministers, Matt referred to 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan confronted David about his adultery using an illustration about a man with loads of sheep stealing another man’s only lamb. When David got angry about this appalling behaviour and declared the man to be deserving of death, Nathan told him “You are the man!”

Matt commented that all of us need to look at ourselves while reading the Bible, and consider whether we should be convicted too.

Basically we need to put ourselves in the place of David.

I was reminded of this video clip where Matt points out a problem with viewing ourselves in the place of David:

I totally agree with both points, but couldn’t immediately work out how to fit them together, so I put it to Matt when I got the chance to speak to him briefly between sessions.

His advice was that this was an example of our need to be conscious of what he describes as the gospel from the air (how the gospel relates to creation as a whole: Creation, Fall, Reconciliation, Consummation) as well as the gospel on the ground (how it relates to each of us as individuals: God, Man, Christ, Response). We can relate to David in that, like him, we’re part of the fall, but we can’t relate to him in the way he portrayed an image of the coming messiah.

I’m not criticising, because to be fair I hadn’t fully worked out in my own mind what I was asking, let alone communicated it clearly, plus he had another preaching session to be ready for starting about 10 minutes later, but I don’t think his answer really clarifies when we’re supposed to put ourselves in David’s shoes and when we’re not, and he knew at the time that I wasn’t fully satisfied with it so told me to go away and wrestle with it.

So having wrestled a little bit, here are my thoughts:

I think it’s probably my fault in being too reductionistic in my interpretation of what Matt said on each occasion. Neither case is as simple as just saying “in this situation, I’m David” or in other situations “I’m not like David at all”.

I think in both of the passages about David there are ways in which it would be appropriate to apply it to ourselves and ways in which it may not be appropriate to apply it to ourselves.

In David vs Goliath, we shouldn’t view ourselves as the champion that David portrays, but we should remember that our God is the same one that David trusted in.

In David vs Nathan, like David we should be open to correction when others point out our guilt, but on the other hand, there’s a risk that if we compare ourselves with David we’ll think we’re righteous because we haven’t committed adultery or murder like he did.

2 Tim 3v16: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

So there is always something in a passage that we can apply to ourselves, but…

In Luke 24v27, Jesus “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

So the Bible is fundamentally about Jesus.

And there is no real conflict between these two, because the aim of our whole lives should ultimately be to point to Jesus. So when Scripture corrects us, the goal is not really to make us into good people, but to make us better at displaying Jesus’ glory.

Kind of feel like I’m stating the obvious now that I look back at it.

There’s No Such Thing As A Good Christian… or at least why I’m not one.

Someone said to me a while ago:

“You’re a good Christian, aren’t you? I only found out recently we’re not supposed to get drunk.”

I wish I was quick-thinking enough to respond by saying that I don’t think there is really such a thing as a good Christian.

In Luke 18:19, Jesus said to someone who called him a good teacher “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

And in Romans 3:10, the apostle Paul said “None is righteous, no, not one”.

homer bible

Homer Simpson was absolutely right when he said “take a look at this Bible… everybody’s a sinner, except this guy.” (“this guy” being Jesus)

The whole point of Christianity is that we’re not good. We’re sinners. We’re a mess.

God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27), and God is love (1 John 4:8). We’re designed to love; God’s law is summarised as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Our failure to live up to this design and obey God’s law of love is what the Bible calls sin.

In our culture, the idea of “sin” has become a joke, but it’s really no laughing matter.

To briefly try to illustrate why offending God is not at all funny: If I were to swat a fly, most people wouldn’t care in the slightest. If I were to dropkick a puppy, many people would get very upset. How about if I were to hit a small child round the head with a baseball bat? Why are the reactions different? It depends on the value of the offended party. The puppy is considered more valuable than the fly, and the child more valuable than the puppy. The more valuable the being on the receiving end of the violence, the more serious it is. If we think about taking it up to a much higher level, to offences against the infinitely valuable God who created the universe, we start to get a little bit of an idea of how much of a problem it is that we offend him and disobey Him.

You may be a much better person than I am, but I know for certain that you are a sinner too. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). And since God is just (Romans 2:5-6), he needs to deal with our sin justly, which means us being cut off from him, i.e. death (Romans 6:23). Not a good situation to be in.

But there’s good news…

God wants to “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7), so he “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:8-10). Jesus died so that we could be restored to the loving relationship with God that we were designed for.

Importantly, the point of Christianity is not that we do certain things (or avoid doing certain things) to show God how good we are to try to make up for our sin (“by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” – Romans 3:20). The whole point is that God shows the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us. It’s not about what we do; it’s what God’s already done for us.

Regarding getting drunk, I think it’s worth considering what Jesus said in Mark 7: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…”

I’ve always found it a bit odd that people talk about alcohol as if it’s some kind of magic potion that causes people to do stupid things and makes life more fun.

As this article points out (and I think it should be required reading for everyone in the UK),

“In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules. It does not cause us to say, “Oi, what you lookin’ at?” and start punching each other. Nor does it cause us to say, “Hey babe, fancy a shag?” and start groping each other.

The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.”

If you act like an idiot when drunk, it’s not the alcohol; it’s you. (No offence.) Similarly, if you enjoy yourself while drunk, it’s not the alcohol; it’s you.

Personally, I’ve never thought “I really want to get drunk, but I really shouldn’t because I’m a Christian.” I’ve never had the desire to get drunk. But that’s not because I’m a good Christian. It probably has more to do with the fact that I’m worried about my reputation; if I got drunk I might say or do something embarrassing that I later wished I hadn’t (actually, if that happened, it wouldn’t be the alcohol that caused it, but I guess I’ve been influenced by our culture’s expectations of the effects of alcohol too). It’s certainly more down to my own pride than me being concerned that if I had too much to drink it might lead to some sort of debauchery. So when you consider that God hates pride (1 Peter 5:5), actually my motivations for not drinking (the evil thoughts that come from within me) may be more offensive to God than someone who does have a few too many. If there is such a thing as a good Christian, the fact that I don’t get drunk doesn’t make me one.

In Psalm 104, God is praised for providing “wine to gladden the heart of man”, and Jesus’ first miracle was to produce more wine when the guests at a wedding had already drunk all that had originally been provided (John 2).

So I don’t think alcohol is in itself evil, or even the effect it has on our minds necessarily bad, but that’s not to say that getting hammered is a good idea…

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul said “do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” So I think the reason Christians shouldn’t get drunk is that, although alcohol isn’t inherently sinful and doesn’t inevitably cause sinful behaviour, it seems fair to say that if we’re inebriated, we’re more likely to give in to temptation to act in ways that are inherently sinful. So for that reason I wouldn’t encourage getting drunk, but the point of this post is not to guilt-trip anyone into trying to live like a better Christian.

If it does motivate you to try to live in a way that pleases God more then great, but the main point, as suggested by the title, is that there’s no such thing as a good Christian. We’re all sinners, we’ve all turned away from God and lived in a way that’s offensive to Him, but if we turn back to Him and ask for forgiveness, He delights to show mercy to us (Micah 7:18).