Pretty Pictures and the Stench of Death
Christ gave Himself for sinful man. He offered His life in our place. His punishment became our peace.
Beautiful thoughts. Simple perfection. Profoundly calming.
The administration of this reconciliation, however, was disturbing, vile, and brutal.
I’ll never forget watching the movie, The Passion of the Christ, and being overcome with emotion at what my Savior had done for me. The veil had been torn, not simply in the temple courts but in the courts of heaven as Jesus, with the most costly death in history, removed the veil of flesh for whoever would believe in Him.
That is the dichotomy of His life. Beauty and brutality lingering side by side. The same dichotomy exists in our own lives and hearts as we choose to abandon ourselves to Him.
Paul recognizes that not everyone sees us the same way.
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life… –2 Corinthians 2:15-16
When an altar must be made, it’s not time for craftsmanship. This is a place of death–no denying it–but where a different and abiding life is established. When it’s time to deal with sin and apathy and indifference, it’s painful and difficult because we have in some ways repaired the veil that Jesus had rent for us. To deal with it again is a matter not to be taken lightly.
Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. –A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (chapter 3)
There’s no condemnation in this, but if we’re guilty we can’t stay here. I have nothing against beautiful buildings or decorated crosses as long as we understand the depth of love behind it and don’t settle for a shallow, mental agreement.
When these things present themselves, we sometimes think we can deal with them on our own, and to some degree, we may try to find an easier way back into the Presence. We only deceive ourselves and delay His healing. As Tozer points out,
Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us.
Our freedom began and was authored in Him, and it will always come back to that truth. God does the work that only He can do. He doesn’t relish our pain, but desires our restored fellowship beyond the momentary hurt.
We were meant for that intimacy. We were meant for life beyond the veil.
Do you ever get struck by our poetic perceptions versus the painful reality? What are your thoughts on this?
Welcome to week 6 of our book club discussion of the Pursuit of God (disclosure) by A.W. Tozer. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it, and to fully digest this book, we’re spending two weeks on each chapter. If you have a response on your blog, add it in the link widget below and be sure to check out the other entries. Also head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for another great take. Whether you’ve read the selection or not, please share your thoughts! We always appreciate a vibrant conversation.