God’s Gracious Glasses
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 NIV
“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
Dear Church Family,
Have you ever heard of “forced perspective?” No, that’s not when my wife makes me see things her way. It’s a technique used by filmmakers to trick moviegoers. Think of those old Hollywood monster movies with giant insects or people. Sometimes they would make a model of some huge object, but they could also save money by playing with camera angles. By placing one thing much closer to the camera and lining it up with another object in the camera’s field of view that was farther away, the closer object appeared much bigger—like a giant. The perspective deceives you into seeing things differently than they really are.
Another example of distorted perspective is a Mercator map. These flat maps of the world were developed by Gerhard Mercator in 1569 for navigation. Projecting a round object onto a flat plane, however, distorts the relative size of the countries. It gets worse the closer you get to the poles. Russia looks huge on a Mercator map, but it’s actually only 1.74 times the size of the U.S. Greenland is especially distorted. Despite its appearance, you could fit fourteen Greenlands inside of Africa. An attempt to correct Mercator distortions is the Peters Projection, but these maps greatly distort the shape of the land masses to maintain the relative sizes.
We instinctively understand why things look smaller as they get farther away, but I would suggest that there is a much more dangerous distortion that too often goes unnoticed. It’s the view that we have of ourselves. In the outside world, our ability to see clearly often diminishes as things get farther away, but self-deception works in the opposite direction. We are too close to ourselves, or too self-centered, to see ourselves objectively.
Now, I understand that some people struggle with low self-image, and it is good for parents to encourage their children, saying things like, “You can do it.” Paul, however, was dealing with a different issue in Rome and Corinth. As in our time, there was a tendency to inflate one’s self-image, to “think of yourself more highly than you ought.” There is one Christian concept, however, that helps to correct this distorted image. Grace acts like a lens correcting our vision. Do you struggle with guilt? God’s grace tells you that God accepts you; he forgives you. Are you boastful? Grace reminds you that everything you have has been given to you by God. Grace gives me the confidence to know that I’m loved by God and equipped with all I need to serve him; grace simultaneously reminds me that I have no room for arrogance, because everything I am and have comes from him. Grace offers us a better perspective. See what I mean?