Wednesday, June 30, 2004
The Stand: the Saliva Doctrine
[This is my parable on our own limitations...]
Once upon a time, there was an island filled with people who had never heard of the One True God. One day, a page of a Bible washed ashore - a page ripped somehow from the New Testament, containing Mark 8:22-26. The people read it with glee, discovering a new way to follow this Man, Jesus. And they learned about Healing. Jesus spit on a man's eyes, and that man could see again. That story had a significant impact on the group, because genetically there were alot of folks with bad eyesight.
Saliva was rendered holy. Anyone caught spitting on the ground was thrown into the stockade in the public square to face humiliation in the midday sun. Spit in the mouth was ok, and many folks enjoyed the holy meditation of swishing the liquid back and forth with their cheeks. Love and appreciation for others was shown by spitting on them - the face was the preferred target, but anywhere the spittle landed was considered blessed and lucky for the foreseeable future. If spit it was expectorated, as is necessary from time to time to avoid drowning, it was to be splooshed (the religiously technical term) into glass jars and carefully marked. For safety and sanitation, any spit older than thirty days was destroyed in a public fashion, with the jar and everything else thrown into the sea in a grand ceremony.
No one remembers whether anyone on the island ever gained better or healed eyesight, and the spitting had an adverse reaction on those not suspecting someone else's blessed sploosh. But this was their religion, following after the One True God. And their page was the authority of Jesus to them. They started attending Spit Festivals and having Holy Spit Conferences, inviting tribal leaders to give a witness to the impact of saliva in their own lives. Each one was drawn to God, and somehow repulsed at the same time - but they thought this was the only way to serve Jesus and to seek better eyesight. Some folks doubted, and soon faction arose over the use and need for splooshing in the public marketplace of ideas.
One day, someone washed up on the same beach as before, this time clinging to another portion of the Bible - this time, a small fragment of John 9:1-12. In the passage, Jesus not only used spit, but he used the saliva to make mud to heal a person's eyes. The man was heralded as a prophet, and he hosted many Spit & Dirt Revival meetings. There was much rejoicing, and it got very dirty. Soon, a new group of folks followed the Way of the Bubbly Mud, much to the chagrin of the Saliva-Only practitioners.
..... I could go on, I suppose, but I think I've conveyed the point. The next guy to come ashore tells of Elijah telling Naaman to dunk in the river seven times for healing (2 Kings 5), and a new island community of 7-Dunkers (not six or eight because that's blasphemy) arises. More and more, they get a little and a little revelation of God, but no one really seems to get the whole picture. That's what I see today - that we've got huge portions of the Story, but there's still holes in what we believe and actually act upon. One group has Spit, another has Mud, yet another is 7-Dunking, and another is hung up on only drinking water that's been turned to wine. We don't have the whole picture - and all of this in the story, and most of it seemingly in the real world, comes out of our understanding more than out of the natural maturing relationship Jesus wants with us.
Truth is truth, and it doesn't need the descriptive "absolute" in front of it to give it any more authority or truthfulness than it already has. However, our ability to know it and convey it is severely limited individually by our own lack of perspective. That's why it's important to value relationships and community, allowing us to seek Christ together and to put our pieces of the truth together - working out salvation together in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12; Heb 10:25) is a missing commodity these days. On top of all that, though, is the realization that we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12), and that God alone holds Truth. Absolutely.