Confident Christianity: “Modeling God’s Key Truths” – 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

wedding ringFrom time to time people ask me why I wear two “wedding rings” – one on the third finger of both of my hands. The reason is simply because I travel, and from time to time find myself in cultures that are different from my own. In some parts of the world (and more common in Florida where I live), a simple band on the third finger of the left hand signifies the person wants you to know they are married. Originally, that so-called “ring finger” on the left hand was derived from a common English belief during the Tudor Period (made plain some time in the 16th-century) that the left third finger was connected to the heart by a vein (before the anatomy studies of Da Vinci and others were better known). The wearer of a ring on that finger was connecting his marriage to her heart in the form of a fiancé or a husband. Incidentally, historians note that commoner men didn’t start to wear wedding rings until much later.

Many unaffected by that belief, some sociologists report, had a different tradition. In countries like Poland, Greece, India and Colombia, the wedding band belongs on the right hand, not the left. Orthodox Christians and Eastern Europeans also traditionally have placed the wedding band on the right hand. Jewish couples wear the wedding ring on the left hand, even though it is placed on the right hand during the marriage ceremony. In a Muslim tradition there is no difference on which hand the ring is worn but it is often found on the right hand. In China, some traditional couples wear wedding rings on opposite hands, with the bride placing her ring on her right hand and a groom placing his on his left.

No matter how we do it, the ring isn’t a marriage and doesn’t guarantee anything. Some young ladies, I understand, put on a wedding ring so that they won’t be bothered by men while traveling or working. In many, if not most places in the world, the ring is a symbol that is understood to mean the person is tied to a covenant of marriage. The ring not only has significant meaning to the wearer because it is tied to many memories; it marks one’s status in public places. Effective symbols do that. They mark, identify, classify and represent important things in small ways.

This isn’t a jewelry seminar, but we are going to be talking about symbols in this lesson, so it is worth exploring why they are so important to us. Symbols can proclaim a complicated message in a simple way! Sometimes they can publicly clarify our stand on something, equal to a placard we may hold at a rally. Consider for a moment how important symbols were to God in the unfolding of His Word to men. Each time God made a covenant in His Word, He included a symbol with it to remind us of that truth. With Israel’s covenant He commanded circumcision. With Noah’s covenant for the world He offered the rainbow as a sign of His faithfulness never to inescapably flood the earth again. With the Law came the symbols of Sabbath to mark the sons of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob as a special covenant people. It appears God like pictures, symbols and iconography, because it brings great truths to mind in simple forms.

The Apostle Paul taught the early church about symbols, and even instituted some along with the other Apostles. As a result, there are really three different types of symbols that have become part of church life.

First, we have those special symbols instituted by Jesus for His church, and they are called “Ordinances”. In some church circles the term “sacrament” is used, but clarity on that is for another lesson. Suffice it to say that symbols of the church instituted directly by Jesus are things like baptism and communion.

Second, there were what I will call “small ‘o’ ordinances” or symbolic rites that were taught by the Apostles because they fit the time and culture in which they were preaching. They were authoritative for a time, but not specified to be an “all places, all times” ordinance for us like those Jesus told all of us to observe.

Finally, some symbols are what can only be termed as “local symbols” or local traditions that a church is a place may institute for a short or long term, for the purpose of teaching specific lessons of truth needed in that place. The church was empowered by God to “bind” or “loose” (in the terms Jesus used) practices for particular purposes. Some churches call these “Christian service standards” and regulate behaviors not forbidden by God for specific reasons.

Our lesson is about a symbol of the second type, those taught by Paul and the other Apostles, but not extended to every culture, time and place. Here is the truth…

Key Principle: The body of Christ was designed to proclaim truth both in preaching the Word of God and in modeling the principles of that Word. Some forms of modeling may change, but the truths do not.

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul had much to say by way of instruction. In the early chapters, he told them that they had “misplaced their loyalty” by loving the men who served Jesus more than the message of God they represented (1 Corinthians 1-4). Next he told them they had “misplaced affection” when they held the value of love higher than truth. Even further, they had “misplaced standards” when they revered the standard of the world’s opinions over that of the Word (1 Corinthians 6). From 1 Corinthians 7 to 16 Paul sought to answer questions posed to him by the church. They asked about marriage, divorce, remarriage and celibacy – and Paul responded in 1 Corinthians 7. They asked about how to live rightly when they couldn’t all agree about things we called “grey areas” – and Paul addressed those behaviors in 1 Corinthians 8-10.

Still in that kind of discussion, proper understanding of Paul’s opening words in 1 Corinthians 11 require us to remember the context. Paul made clear that his weaker brothers and sisters were more important than any of his liberties. Nothing was worth hurting one who was weak. He wasn’t bowing down to the legalists that wanted to enforce their opinions as the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but rather making the bold claim that he would not put himself above a believer who would fall back into sin because of any display of his behavior, period. It wasn’t worth it. He closed chapter 10 with the words that should echo through our lives:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

Encouraging Imitation

He followed up that idea with the command that believers at Corinth follow his example, and put others before themselves. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

This wasn’t simply Paul snapping the whip and making rules. He was trying to make clear that God used MODELING, not just TALKING. It occurs to me that where we are in the culture of our time, modeling is being reduced in importance. Subtly, we are beginning to believe education is about simple transfer of information, when the essential component of modeling has long been the better way to learn. Consider the way the masters of the past brought in young apprentices, and had them work alongside of others and eventually create their own “masterpiece” – the consummation of the hours of labor in learning. That piece defined their career and was often the best they were able to do. That happened, in part, because people recognized the value of life on life learning.

May I say this openly, so that we are clear on the meaning of the passage? Your Pastor isn’t supposed to be just a teacher you hear on Sunday. He is to measure up, as best he is able, to an example of a believer. He is to learn from his mistakes and not excuse his wrong behaviors. He is to live what he preaches and preach what the Word says. When he fails, he will need you forgiveness and love, but he will need to again be diligent to step up to the task of an example. Part of the reason I have so enjoyed being a part of the people of Grace is this: you have allowed me to grow and helped me along the journey. I am not the godly man I hope to be, but with my Savior’s help, I am striving to discipline my walk so that I might not be a poor example to you. I try to do that in work, in the use of my mouth, in my careful behaviors with others, etc. I don’t want YOU to be led wrongly, and I feel the weight of modeling – but that isn’t wrong. It is as it should be.

Encouraging the Use of Models

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

Focusing on the Positions of Responsibility

Paul took some time to answer questions about what men and women should wear on their head in a worship or prayer meeting. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and from the standpoint of the coverings or lack of coverings it really wasn’t. You have to remember that symbols protect truths, and it is the truths they protect which do not change. Cloak coverings by themselves meant nothing – but when they represented a truth they were important for that reason alone. The central truth Paul wanted to make clear in the model of head coverings was this: God ordered creation and ordered the family. The placement of authority and order of responsibility wasn’t a cultural thing; it began with God’s design. A pagan or atheist society will vehemently oppose this Biblical truth: God made man and woman and gets to say what we are “for” and why were made the way we are. Let’s take it slowly and digest the truth of the passage. Paul began:

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Headship is the fundamental truth, and it is opposed on many fronts today, both outside and inside the church. What is absolutely clear is this: the Father is the ultimate responsible party for all things – He is the ‘head’ of all else. This is made clear at the end of verse three. All of humanity lives in a Patriarchal system with God as the Patriarch. We all came from Him. In Roman terms, He is the “paterfamilias,” that is, the reason we are all a family. He deserves all respect and there is no one higher. He holds the right to life and death of us all, and He answers to no one else. He is not challenged by the brightest atheist mind, for He made all of us and knows what we cannot know. To Job He made clear that He knew He was and is uncontested as Leader of all.

Second to that truth is the fact that God has a Son, the Anointed One called “the Christ” Who acknowledged the Father as His head, and Who represents the Father in all things before men. All men will ultimately kneel before Him, because there is no man who is His equal. He is head over all mankind, and has been given His authority by the Father. Jesus made it clear in Matthew’s record:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A few decades later the Apostle Paul wrote of God’s Son:

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

A truth of the headship of Jesus is that He takes responsibility to meet the needs of His people and to do it at all times and in all ways to honor His Father.

The final truth using this term “headship” and defining the lines of responsibility in 11:3 is this: a woman is to see her man as her head in terms of responsibility before God for the family. She does not normally have the same responsibility before God that her husband, and before that her father, has before God. She was not placed in that position because she is unable to lead, but because God created the order and made clear that confusion of His order would bring consequences. If men stopped leading, women would lead. If they did, disorder in the family would follow in the generations that followed.

Because this is so convoluted today with emotional terms like “chauvinist” and “feminist”, we need to remember some things that are very important here.

Don’t forget that Paul believed Jesus was absolutely EQUAL with God in value, a point made clear in his words about Jesus in Colossians 1:16-17. The issue of responsibility is NOT an issue of value, but of culpability and ultimate accountability. Both men and women are equal in the fact that they both have an equal measure of God’s image and likeness. Neither men nor women are inferior to the other in value, but they do not share equal responsibility in the home as God designed the home to operate. The distinction is not found in value, but in the principle of headship.

Let us define “male headship” in marriage as God’s placement of the “primary weight of accountability” to lead the family in His design and for His glory.

The family isn’t two-headed in accountability; it has a head. Be careful here! Don’t confuse headship with some medieval scenario for forced domination. This behavior occurs when a man asserts his will over a woman without regard to her Divinely-endowed value and ignorant of her God-given rights. God does not behave as despot to His Son. The Son gave Himself for the church. A man is told to be like the Son in his behavior to his wife.

The Shamefully Covered Head

Because of the headship principle, Paul had to make clear that Roman men should remove the head covering associated with their freedom and show their head, as a slave would. This was not an easy teaching for his time when he wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

In our modern approach, many students of the Bible forget to search our why a bare-headed Roman male would be a problematic command. Caught up in our own issues, we don’t read the letters in their historical context. For a Roman, the pileus hat was a representation of freedom as familiar as the “Statue of Liberty” may be today. Since nearly half the Empire during his time were slaves that dreamed of becoming free, the well-known “hat of freedom” was a symbol of pride to Roman men. Yet, Paul wanted men to take off their hats when they came to worship and pray, or they would DISGRACE JESUS, their spiritual head.

Pileus Saturnalia2011.17Much has been made in Christian theology of the freedom we have in Christ, as well it should. Paul explained to the Galatians that they were no longer slaves (doulos) in the sense of our family privileges, but now are sons (Gal.4:7). He later explained the salvation of Onesimos (an ‘on the run’ slave) as purposeful, in that he became more than a slave, but also a brother (Philemon 1:16). Truly, salvation changes our approach to God as adopted dear children. Who can doubt the vast privileges of our place as God child?

The problem is, that with all the talk of freedom and position, we have lost the balancing truth that we have also become slaves of Christ. Paul told the Colossians: “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (also from the term for slave, or “doulos” , see Col 3:24).

Consider this: Paul began letters to the churches repeatedly with the term that shows he thought he was a SLAVE of Jesus Christ (cp. Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Titus 1:1). James (in James 1:1), Peter (in 2 Peter 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1:1) identified themselves of slaves of Jesus as well. Paul told Timothy that he was to become one (2 Timothy 2:24). His common view was that other servants of Jesus were slaves that served in the household, side by side – as in the case of Epaphras (Colossians 1:17) and Tychicus (Colossians 4:7). John used the term of fellow slave (sundoulos) for angels as well (Revelation 19:10, 22:9).

The Apostles didn’t make up the idea of being a slave to Jesus.

The Master made clear to His disciples they were to consider themselves as such. They were not above Him (Matthew 10:24) and their servant hood was a mark of following Him well (Mark 10:44). The Savior praised the servant that did the Master’s work well (Luke 12:43). In that vein, Paul deliberately “made himself a slave” (1 Corinthians 9:19) to allow the Master to win others through his obedience. He urged believers to become a slave of Jesus as the Savior had done for men (Philippians 2:7).

One of the most startling differences between the Roman system of slavery and any that preceded it was this: many Roman slaves hoped for freedom, and after years of service, many were granted manumission (they were set free). Freeing a slave was called manumissio, or literally “sending out from the hand“. The symbol for the ceremony was the wearing of the pileus, a brimless hat that took its name from a soft felt like cloth. The hat was proudly worn to show the former slave was now joined to the social class of the libertini. The covering was a profound Roman symbol of freedom. A covered head was a man who now made decisions for himself. Only now does the truth unfold in Paul’s words of instruction to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:4. “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head… 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”

The clear truth is this: we are not free to live our lives as we please- but we have been freed from darkness to please our Master with our lives.

We must remove our proud hats of self-determination when we come to worship the Master who left Heaven to save us. My concern is NOT that I am seeing more and more hats in church- but that I am observing more and more pileus wearing in the heart. Believers have become more and more servants of self. Many of us have forgotten the call to serve the Master, and replaced it with the call for the Master to serve us. This is not Christianity; it is self-worship – the worship of our wants, desires and cares. As Paul reminded: “… he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave (1 Cor. 7:22b).

The Shamefully Uncovered Head

If you keep reading past the command to men, you reach the commentary on the responsibility of women in the congregation to recognize and celebrate the God-ordained headship of the home. Paul offered an explanation

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

What Headship Means

First, it means that believers base much on taking the Creation story seriously. The Bible is the rule of definition for even those most intimate and important relationships of life. There is a reason we are completely resistant to accepting an alternative “science” view of our origins, and pushing back on the idea that Creation was a mere myth. Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

The story of Creation in the Bible sets the tone for God’s order in the world. It explains the appearance of evil and sin. If there was no Adam, then Paul’s statement that sin appeared by one man is false, and death is not because of sin, and salvation through another man (Jesus Christ) cannot be trusted.

Now look closely at the argument of verse eight. Woman came from man according to the Scripture. The order of Creation was this: God created man, and from man came woman.

Let’s be clear: The rejection of the literal Creation account from the Bible is the rejection of the basis of the order of the home. Headship is argued first and foremost from the presupposition that Creation by God as stated in the Scripture is absolutely true.

The name “woman” – that very designation is to remind us of that fact. When Scripture placed limits on her direct responsibility, it did so on the basis of her “indirect” creation; that is that she was a creation from another creation. That may mean little to the modern mind, but “faith” is seeing things the way God said they are – and believers that belittle God’s definitions lose incrementally lose their faith and utter confidence in God’s order. The implication of this truth is this: God holds a man in headship of a home because of the order He made – not because of the greater capability of any one man in any one situation. The rule is: God holds the man accountable because that is how He made things. That indeed is affirmed in verse nine, where Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

Note Paul’s argument went yet a step further. His second step is that woman was assigned a specific functional role of her own. He made clear the very stated REASON for the creation of the woman was to BE A HELPER. When women take on headship because something has gone wrong, the danger is that she will lose completely the design and feel the design of God has somehow been dismissed. The end is confusion in society about God-given roles, and ultimate the definition of gender roles as God made them.

Again, don’t think we are belittling woman any more than we are belittling men when we say they were created to serve the Lord. In our mind, value and position are indelibly linked. In God’s economy, when I perform the service for which I was made, I am MORE of what I was made to be, and that increases my fulfillment in Him. The value of both man and woman is rooted in His image in them, not in their position of responsibility or productivity in life. A person with severe physical and mental limitations can bring God much joy but produce little when that one trusts God for his or her life. Our value is not in our position, nor our ability – it is in the faithful fulfillment of our role.

It is because of this, many women of the west in the modern era are freer to live life on their terms, but are NOT living with a greater sense they are fulfilling their God-given roles in life. Confidence in many has been eroded, and faith has been weakened by their slow but increasing resistance to God’s original designs for them. They are like the highest quality screwdriver trying to act like a hammer – working at what they were not designed to accomplish. God didn’t make them to be the protector of the home, the leader of the family and the guardian of the spiritual life of their children. Often, because of passive or sinfully behaving men, they felt pushed to stop helping and to do his job. In some cases, the man totally left his position, and that forced her into the role. The end can easily be a woman who forgets the original design as she toughens to do what must be done, and children who grow up in a world that erodes the very notion of gender distinction. It is such a world we are in now. For a woman left uncovered, the caution is to weather the storm but cling to the original design. Don’t ignore it.

Before I leave these comments, let me be very clear: I am not blaming women for this plight, nor men. Each situation is different, but many have commonalities. We are all sinners, but there are specific and serious warnings in this passage that are difficult for some to hear. When a man leaves his wife, Biblically he leaves her uncovered before God. She is forced to take a role she was not to have in the home – that of headship. If you are such a woman, hear this caution: Don’t think that in the working world and the roles you have taken on, that God now simply dismissed his design. In my experience, much of the time, it is from that very group (women who have been forced to take the role of headship) the pressures of feminism and demands to place women in positions of ministry set aside by God for men have most come. Let me say this carefully, sensitively and yet wholly Biblically: God made woman of equal value. She has the stamp of His image in her. Yet, she was not made for the headship of the home, nor of the church. She was given vital gifts to help God’s people and to raise children, but she must not think that because she was forced to go into the working world to make ends meet for her family, that her ability in the world translates into God’s design being altered. It does not. I submit that a society that confuses that basic idea of headship will confuse the God-specified gender roles assigned to both men and women. Soon, even believers will acquiesce to the idea that such roles were merely cultural, and the words of 1 Corinthians 11 will sound entirely foreign.

If you take the time to survey the Bible concerning the role of a woman specifically, you will not that in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, Paul made clear that God has an order for society, and that we create confusion when it becomes disordered. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 14:34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

We will deal with the specifics of the passage later when we get to that chapter, but notice Paul’s appeal for women was to be calm and not try to lead the meeting, but rather to “deliberately place themselves in rank beneath the men in the church assembly” found in the word “subject”. Note that SHE does this, he does not compel her beyond expecting her to obey the Lord in all things. Note the appeal to the church was on the basis of the Torah’s call for subjection. It was from the Law the idea of subjection and spiritual headship. The obvious question is this: What did the Law say?

The story of the Creation was from the Torah, and the notion of her purpose as a help-meet came from the early chapters of Genesis. At the same time, the Law regarding the headship and responsibility is found in Numbers 30, in the section concerning VOWS. If we took the time to read and study it, you would find God told a man that He needed to be careful about his vows to the Lord. It also contained specific words that allowed a woman’s vows to God to be set aside by her father (if she was unmarried) and her husband (if she was married). Here is the point: God placed spiritual headship over her so that she would understand that she did not have direct spiritual accountability unless something went wrong in her life (such as a divorce by means of an unfaithful husband or her loss of him in death).

In Titus 2, God made clear that older women had the primary responsibility in the church to teach younger women about their role; specifically that of subjection to the headship of their husband found in the design of God. Back in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul made clear that churches of that time and place were to show headship by a SYMBOL – the covering of a woman’s head in worship times. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Those words “because of the angels” should bother us. Apparently, angels as still subject to the rebellious tendencies they had when one third left God’s side to join the Adversary, the father of lies. Angels are watching us. God’s headship principle as applied to our homes became yet another echo of acceptance or rejection of God’s order and right to declare how His creation works.

It is based on an understanding that believers see interdependence of men and women as Paul wrote in 11:11-12, but all were subject to God’s plan and design. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.

As a “shout out” to the people of his time and place, Paul made it clear that Romans thought a man with long hair was wrong, while a woman’s long hair was her glory. This is a very old idea in verses 13-14. That wasn’t a science statement, but a clear cultural value of his time. Romans believed it, and asking them to make a judgment call was a rhetorical way to show they were all one in that idea.

1 Corinthians 11:13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

Paul made clear that all the churches in the Roman period practiced that symbol of head covering for women and covering removal for men. Men may have felt that removing their pileus was a shameful thing – but the need to stand for the truth was more important than the need to find comfort in their culture. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

This is something we must teach anew. Christianity isn’t built to fit INTO cultures; it is made to reshape the pagan corruptions back into the God-designed way.

Today, that means recognizing that in the plurality of the home, headship is necessary, It requires believers to understand that men and women are precious, equal in value, and different in responsibility of the home and accountability before God in that context. It demands that we embrace something as simple as gender roles from the pattern of Scripture. Masculinity and femininity are “God things” and not simple roles assigned by culture, though culture may play a role in how they show themselves. Finally, believers need to recognize that when God’s order in society is rejected, confusion ensues.

Remember, the body of Christ was designed to proclaim truth both in preaching the Word of God and in modeling the principles of that Word. Some forms of modeling may change, but the truths do not.

Men need to renew what being a man means in God’s eyes. What does it mean to be responsible for the spiritual welfare of your home? What does it mean for you to protect your family, not just from a thief or attacker, but from Satan’s influences? How do we intentionally teach such manliness to our young men, who are being trained to believe the notion of Biblical headship is a chauvinistic throwback to some tribal society, rather than a God-planned way to live in the home? Let’s also inquire: “Do our men understand what removing a cap of freedom and putting on slavery to Jesus Christ really means?” Spiritually speaking, we need to stop serving ourselves and get busy acting like we are owned by our Master. To not recognize this is to be contentious with our Lord.

A woman who has been damaged by passive and ungodly behavior of a man needs to measure how much she has let that influence her understanding of headship. Is she now living disrespectful of men in the church because of her personal pain? Does she recognize the design even if sin has ravaged how it has worked in her life? I am not arguing for women to put hats on their heads, but I am arguing they need them in their heart.

Dear ones, we must learn to love God’s design, even when it has been stripped away and mis-characterized by a lost world. They don’t get it. They want what they want, and they don’t want HIM. For the believer, HE is our prize. Consider this story. In his book The Pressure’s Off, psychologist Larry Crabb tells this story from his childhood:

One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient. Then it was time to leave. I couldn’t unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn’t do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, “I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.” My parents—and likely the neighbors—heard my desperate scream. “Are you okay?” Mother shouted through the door she couldn’t open from the outside. “Did you fall? Have you hit your head?” “I can’t unlock the door!” I yelled. “Get me out of here!” I wasn’t aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door. “Thanks, Dad,” I said—and ran out to play. That’s how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work… God shows up. He hears my cry—”Get me out of here! I want to play!”—and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire. Sometimes he does. But now I’m realizing the Christian life doesn’t work that way. And I wonder, are any of us content with God? Do we even like him when he doesn’t open the door we most want opened—when a marriage doesn’t heal, when rebellious kids still rebel, when friends betray, our business fails, when financial reverses threaten our comfortable way of life, when the prospect of terrorism looms, when health worsens despite much prayer, when loneliness intensifies and depression deepens, when ministries die? God has climbed through the small window into my dark room. But he doesn’t walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn’t budge. Instead, he sits down on the floor and says, “Come sit with me!” He seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play. I don’t always see it that way. “Get me out of here!” I scream. “If you love me, unlock the door!”

People want what they want, and if they were honest, most don’t want HIM; at least, not until the face death. As believers, that must change as we consciously learn that time with Him is the prize. Otherwise, why look for Heaven if you don’t want God’s presence in your life now?