Kimberly Eddy

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Through a glass darkly as it says in the Bible. We don't see everything as clearly as we think

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Knowing my God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults
Knowing My God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults
Formats Available: Paperback
Knowing My God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults

So there’s this verse in the Bible, right in the middle of the “love” chapter in fact, where Paul says, “we see through a glass darkly”. The modern translation would be “We’re looking through a dirty window” or “We’re looking at a dirty mirror”. 

In other words, we don’t see clearly. Or as clearly as we think we do. 

I’ve been entangled, sadly, with the self-righteous lure of legalism, fundamentalism, and other gross things in the past. I want to write longer on the why’s and how’s that that happened but for now, suffice it to say, it happens slowly, subtly, and by knowing your place in the community and in fellowship is contingent on your following the rules. 

Nestled in the LOVE chapter

Instead, I was thinking about this idea of looking through a glass darkly, and why it’s in the middle of the love chapter. Weird placement, no?

Maybe not.

Because Jesus himself said that everything else is summed up in “love God and love others”. The rest is just details.

So as we come up with beliefs, teachings, and doctrines, if they aren’t grounded in a love for God and others, loving our neighbors as ourselves right where they are, then it’s not sound.

We don’t see clearly all the ins and outs, if we just default to loving people where they’re at, and treating them like people made in the image of God no matter what, we can’t go wrong. 

The Shake Up

One of those things that made me have a full shake up in my faith and practice is around this whole topic of God’s unconditional love. All around the same time I was dealing with:

  • Some telling me to get my daughter dressing more “appropriate” (even though there was nothing I saw wrong with what she was wearing)
  • Me being harassed and touched by a mentally disabled man at church, while no one would do anything about it. Instead, I was asked what I did to “lead him on”?
  • A struggling friend trying to make connections at church being left on the outside looking in. When I brought it up to one of the women’s leaders, she said, “Well she should volunteer more…” A woman with disabled kids and a lowlife drunkard husband? Yeah. Great. That’s what she needs in her life. 
  • Being told my ministry (managing the church’s website), it was decided, was “man’s work”. And that maybe I should go work in the nursery. How about not?
  • The same pillars of purity, holiness and standards who judge me, my friend, and my daughter (and others) falling over themselves to support and excuse the behavior and words of a politician boasting about grabbing women inappropriately. 

Never Satisfied

At some point in all of this, I realized something. Nothing I did was ever going to be “good enough” for some people and their ever-growing list of rules and standards. I would just keep slicing off pieces of myself to fit into their mold, while they made their love and fellowship and concern conditional. 

I’m not sure if part of it is getting to a certain age and having a “Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes” moment where you suddenly don’t care anymore about what anyone thinks and you’re going to live your life with the purpose you know you were given at birth. Or maybe it’s just reaching a final breaking point.

Why does legalism appeal?

Why do we do this in churches? 

Because we see through a glass darkly. Or as the NLT puts it: 

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT

I don’t ascribe malice to anyone in any of this. They are looking at “partial and incomplete… puzzling reflections in a mirror”. 

People wrapped up in legalism usually want to make God happy, not realizing He already is.

They think this is what’s best, and if it’s what’s best, then you have to make sure everyone knows it. Yeah….and if someone doesn’t realize it, or doesn’t accept it, you just withhold love until they get with the program. Make them stand in the corner, so to speak. Because you “love” them enough to not “let them do wrong”.

It all makes perfect sense when you’re blinded by the need to make yourself acceptable to God, not realizing or accepting that you already are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). 

I freely admit, I’m guilty of believing this steaming pile of crapola once upon a time too.

But we don’t know what we don’t know.

We see through a glass darkly.

We have a partial and incomplete picture, looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror.

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