Monday, May 14, 2012

Being unfaithful to the heavenly vision

Therefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: Acts 26:19

For every work of art there are three versions: The book we should have written, the book we wanted to write, and the book we finally wrote. Much gets in the way to prevent us from being faithful to the artistic vision. Sometimes we are afraid we lack the skill, sometimes we are afraid of being too weird for the marketplace, sometimes we didn’t fully understand the vision.

I had a dream once of a beautiful sculpture in a beautiful city. When I woke up, I only half-remembered the sculpture and the city. When I described the sculpture and the city to my husband, the image no doubt deteriorated further in his mind (after all, he isn’t in my mind.) And if he were to draw the picture in his mind of the dream picture in my mind, he would be further away from the dream city vision. And if I were to attempt to describe this city in a work of art, perhaps scientific, emotional, moral, and marketplace factors would limit the vision. Or if a reviewer or reader were to see the painting or read the book describing this city, the image would be even further away from the dream image. That’s the way it is in art; there is always an almosting.

So there is Peter on top of the roof when he gets this vision which God translates to mean, "Gentiles are okay now. God has cleansed them. Therefore you can now bring the gospel to them and not worry about connecting and communing with them." (Book of Acts, chapters ten and eleven.)

He repeats this testimony about three times. (And we also hear Paul's testimony about his own vision three times.)

Not to mention Peter's vision on the mountain when he saw Elias and Moses.

But back to the vision on the roof.

One would think that seeing this vision and seeing the impact on the disciples and the Gentiles, Peter would've stuck to being Peter. But he goes back to being his old Simon self and when certain disciples came from James, Peter --- uh, Simon-- goes back to avoiding the Gentiles. Paul had to call him out on this. (Galatians 2:12)

How can one have seen such a great vision and yet forget it? How can one not be obedient to such a heavenly vision?

Even stranger, Jesus had told Peter he would be sifted. Jesus had told Simon not to be such a "simon" (reed, blown about my the wind) but to be a "Peter" (a rock.) And Jesus had even spoken the word of blessing by calling Simon by the new name of Peter. Obviously, we have to work with God. God can't make us into something if we don't work with it.

I wonder about heavenly visions as well. Getting a vision often incurs all kinds of temptations. Joseph and the patriarchs hear from God that they are to be great in some way and what do they do? It makes Abraham and Isaac assume God doesn't speak to the Gentiles (Pharoah and Abimelech). It makes Jacob covet his brother's birthright because obviously his mom told him it would be his anyway. It makes Joseph walk around snitching on his brothers.

How can we then be faithful to the vision without being jerks? And how can we not be faithful to the heavenly vision when God has clearly ordered it?

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