NO ASTERISK * (I saw a soul in black and white)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1

Me and Geoff in “Lightening” – 1956

First of all I have to make it clear what this post is not – even though I’m opening with this potentially nostalgic black-and-white photo from 1956. It’s not going to be sappy, sentimental or dripping with nostalgia (although I do admit to having tendencies toward sentimentality).

Additionally, this post is not going to be overly warm and fuzzy. (Several years ago a Presbyterian elder in the Sun City church wrote a letter to the Tampa Tribune complaining that my newspaper column was consistently “unreasonably positive…” “unrealistically nice…” and “written in a cloying tone….”)

But that’s not where I’m going with this. There’s actually some pretty decent theology in today’s post.

Would you look at those mugs! Derek and Geoff, 1956 – Folkestone, England

REVELATION: Friday afternoon Rebekah and I drove to Sarasota to enjoy dinner with my parents. Later, while sipping tea, we looked through some of their old photo albums from the 1950’s.

I pulled out my iPhone and made copies of some of the pictures of my brother, Geoff. Then, this morning, scrolling through the images in my mind, I realized what it was that captured me. I realized I was looking at a picture of my brother’s soul.

Let me explain. This is just a metaphor, but see it you can stick with it. When I saw my brother’s cherubic mug looking back at me I had a sudden epiphany. “This is what Geoff looked like to God the day he gave his heart to Jesus,” I thought. “And this is how he appeared when Jesus welcomed him home into his arms March 12th.”

PURITY: I thought about this amazing purity and innocence that children bring into the world. Now don’t get me wrong, Rebekah and I raised two of our own, and I worked in the classroom for enough years to understand how children grow beyond that status in a hurry. But these two-year-old pictures helped me to understand a little of what redemption looks like and the effect of God’s amazing love on the formation and the future of the human soul.

I am washed completely clean by unconditional love. My soul – there it is! – is free from the stain and the burden of all the accumulated stuff that gets in the way of a being at peace with God. It’s still me – God loves me, not some sanitized approximation – but it is me without the baggage. And it is Geoff, equally free.

With mum, outside our grandparents’ home

HONEST: It really did feel as if I was looking at a picture of my brother’s soul. And the way the truth of it settled into my heart bought a real sense of affirmation, and of reassurance, and of clarification.

There is no shadow of a doubt at all: “Of course that’s how God looks at us! Why didn’t I see it this clearly before?”

There are no provisos; there’s no asterisk; no, “That was close; you know I almost had to reject you…” from God. No, “If only you had been as well-behaved as one of those nice fundamentalists….” No, “I’ll put you in the holding area until you get your doctrine straight….”

Not at all! God receives us in perfect order. The Father receives us courtesy of the astonishing love of the Son.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3

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