Sunday, October 18, 2015

"The First Tear He Made Was So Deep that I Thought It Had Gone Right into my Heart"

A thought struck today as I was half paying attention in Sunday School today: We get it kinda wrong when we say "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

It's not the concept, it's the phraseology. Loving the sinner but hating the sin still puts the emphasis on the sin. This is what I'm going to think or say from now on:

Love the person, hate the sin.

Because the person is more than the sin, more than a sinner. That person -- as are we all -- is a child of God. And deserves to be recognized as a person, an individual, not as a thing -- a sinner -- to be categorized.

As I pondered that a bit, something else came to mind:

That's what C.S. Lewis meant.

Consider this from "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," telling the story of how Eustace Scrubb, transformed into a dragon by his greedy thought, is turned back into a boy through the help of Aslan the Lion:

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said—but I don't know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.

Aslan didn't say a thing about loving the sinner and hating the sin. He merely worked through the sin -- doing it in a way that Eustace could not -- to find the person underneath. He did not apply any labels. Aslan simply looked past the sin to the frightened little boy buried deep inside that dragon skin.

Maybe that's what we should be doing. Samuel is reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7:

[T]he Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

We cannot do for others -- or for Eustace -- what God does for us in similar situations. We cannot go as deep to healing the wounds as He can. But we can look past the wounds and reassure the wounded that we love them, and that help has arrived in the form of the atonement.

That's what Alsan did. He looked at the heart -- at how through his pain, Eustace had begun his transformation into more acceptable behavior (note, NOT that he had transformed completely; that is not how we humans work).

And that's what I need to start doing.

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