I recently finished Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure, by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray. I thought it was a helpful read, though perhaps not as good as Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, which covers similar, though not identical, ground.
In short, Seeing Jesus from the East seeks to put Jesus back into His original context, and shows how this middle-eastern teacher whose ideas form the foundation for much of Western society appeals to both East and West, addressing the shame and guilt of humanity. Again, it is a helpful read.
For me, though, one of the most compelling aspects of the book was not directly connected to the East/West issues related to Christianity at all, but rather, was the conveying of a simple parable:
“The story is told of a little seaside town where the fog was sometimes so thick that ships were prevented from making it safely into port. The townsfolk decided to build a lighthouse. On the day that lighthouse was finished, they celebrated with bands playing, bells ringing, and trumpets sounding. The mayor cut a ribbon to inaugurate the lighthouse.
That night, a huge fog descended once again. Two visitors who had attended the ceremony said to one another, “The light shines, the bells ring, the horns blow, but the fog comes in just the same.”
They missed the point. The lighthouse was never intended to keep the fog from coming in; it was designed to guide ships safely into harbor through the fog.
The Son of God came not to keep the fog from descending, but to help the human heart see through the fog.”
I think this conveys a powerful truth related to the way the gospel is presented (or, too often, misrepresented). Sometimes, the impression is given that if someone becomes a Christian, all of their troubles will disappear and life we be happy and easy. While it is true that being in Christ, having the Holy Spirit working in our lives and living in community and fellowship with other Christians are wonderful spiritual blessings, both eternally and in the here and now, being a Christian doesn’t inoculate us against the hardships of life. The fog comes in just the same.
But Jesus helps us see through the fog. He doesn’t tell us that the pain does not hurt or that the world is not broken, but He does promise to hurt with us, and ultimately, to heal the brokenness.
The Christian life is not painless, but it is hopeful.