Friday, 22 March 2013

Being looked through, not looked at

Tim Challies posts an observation Alister McGrath makes about C.S. Lewis’ view on the role of the poet and the task of poetry (from McGrath's new biography of Lewis).  
For Lewis, poetry works not by directing attention to the poet, but to what the poet sees: “The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points.” The poet is not a “spectacle” to be viewed, but a “set of spectacles” through which things are to be seen. The poet is someone who enables us to see things in a different way, who points out things we otherwise might not notice. Or again, the poet is not someone who is to be looked at, but someone who is to be looked through.
Challies goes on to apply this calling of being looked through rather than being looked at to preachers, evangelists, parents, and ultimately to Christians in general.  
The preacher is not someone who is to be looked at, but someone who is to be looked through. The task of the preacher is not to stand before the church and be seen and recognized as a great man or even a great preacher. The task of the preacher is to draw the minds and hearts of his listeners to God. He has failed in his calling if he is looked at instead of looked through.
The evangelist is not someone who is to be looked at, but someone who is to be looked through. The task of the evangelist is to declare what is true about God and to call upon people to turn to him in repentance and faith. The evangelist is to disappear and to be forgotten in the message he conveys so that his hearers are able to see what he sees, so they are able to grasp what he grasps.
The parent is not someone who is to be looked at, but someone who is to be looked through. Even a parent is better looked through than looked at. The parent who simply teaches Bible stories does little compared to the parent who lives as if God’s Word is true; this is the parent who disappears into the truth he loves, this is the parent who points beyond himself, the parent who says, “Look at that!” and points directly to Jesus Christ.
In all areas of life the Christian is to be that set of spectacles that allows people to see something beyond, something better, something greater. The Christian is to point to Christ and do to this he needs to be looked through, not at.
Catching a ride on the Challies train of thought and travelling a bit further down the tracks……
One powerful way that a parent is to be looked through rather than looked at is in who they are to image as a parent.  While all Christians are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), fulfilling this calling requires specific applications based on a given role or relationship we might have.  Parents ought to see the primary function of their parenting as one of imaging God the Father to their children.  He is a loving Father who cares for his children (1 Pet. 5:7), has compassion on us and remembers our frame (Ps. 103:13, 14), provides for us (Matt. 6:25-33), protects us (Ps. 91) and always, always keeps his word to us (Prov. 30:5; Ps. 105:8).  When parents do these things in imitation of God, they are discipling their own children into an intimate knowledge of the God who is Father to both they and their parents.  Such parents back up their words with their lives.  While no parent is perfect, when a parent's example matches their words, their children see it and what the parent says is made believable because it is visible.  And it isn't visible because the children are looking at their parents, but looking through them to God.

Parents are to be windows, not murals or sketchy caricatures.  Fathers, in particular, are to be windows through which our children can see God the Father.  Human dads are fathers because we are made in God’s image and God is a father.  He is the archetype and prototype Father from which the title and role of father takes its meaning and purpose (Eph. 3:14, 15).  Father is not a metaphoric title God uses for himself so that we can understand one aspect of his character or nature.  God is the Father, from which human fatherhood derives its existence and takes its proper function.  

Parents, when your children look at you, what do they see.  Fathers, can your children see through you? 

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