One of the things that frustrate me about my dog, Zero, is how he just assumes he can go wherever he wants when we go for walks. He has no awareness of property ownership. The only thing he sees when he looks into another person’s yard is the bush he would love nothing more than to pee on. The way my dog sees the world differs greatly from the way I do. But sometimes I wonder whose way of seeing is truer—more in line with the essence of God’s creation.
There is this scene in Mark’s Gospel that includes Jesus calling Peter “Satan”. Jesus had just finished telling His disciples that He was going to be rejected by the Jewish system of power and ultimately killed before rising again 3 days later. Peter was so shocked by this that he confronted Jesus, leading to the aforementioned name calling. It is clear that Jesus and Peter were viewing these things through two very different lenses, but I sometimes find it difficult to recognize what that difference is?
The simplest view of what Jesus was about to experience is not unique within creation. The pattern of death and resurrection happens all around us every year. In the fall nearly all that was once green is a deathly grey or brown, and in the spring new life jumps out of the ashes of that very death. A seed literally ceases to be a seed. It dies to itself, and only then can it sprout into the fullness of life it was always intended for.
The pattern Jesus was aligning Himself with was a pattern established by God at the heart of creation. Peter’s vision was still so narrow as he listened to Jesus’ words that the only thing he was able to hear was, “I know you all hoped I was going to lead you to freedom from Rome’s oppression, but I am actually going to die. But, the good news is I will come back to life!” It seems that Jesus’ view was one that was not rooted in the soil of human constructs, but rather that which is most fundamental within creation. Peter couldn’t separate himself enough from the human structures that shaped everything he had known to see what Jesus saw. Jesus confirms this when He tells Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus seems to be inviting Peter to see through a more elemental lens—a lens that sees deeper than human fear, greed, violence, and social expectations.
In some admittedly strange ways, Zero has a lot to teach me. We might begin to connect more deeply with ourselves and God if we realize how influenced we all are by the human systems around us. As I walk my dog around the neighborhood all I see is owned property. All he sees is earth. When my daughter is in public and she sees something that impresses her, she expresses her excitement even if it means that I start to blush as I try to explain to her that she should wait until church is over to express this emotion.
Even our young children seem to have a deep connection to that which exists beneath our social and cultural norms. They seem to have a lens through which they view the world that is far more focused on that which is fundamentally true to creation than we adults do. It might also be that this view is most natural and they simply haven’t yet learned the view that we have—although they almost certainly will. Perhaps that is why Jesus tells us we need to become like children if we are to enter into His Kingdom.
The distinction of the concerns of God as opposed to merely human concerns is easily noticeable when we look at poverty. One look at the wealth distribution in our world shows us that human concerns often lead to one having more than he knows what to do with while another struggles to feed her children more than once a day. The idea of entire continents living in poverty while others are ridiculously wealthy makes no natural sense. The land is completely impartial. Seeds planted and nurtured will yield fruit for the farmer regardless of that person’s nationality, race, cultural practices, etc. It is not God, but human concerns and systems that set the perfect stage for such overwhelming poverty.
It seems that Peter’s failure to see what Jesus sees is not unique to him. Jesus sees that a reality exists somewhere beneath the social constructs of Israel and Rome. There is something more elemental and true that is guiding Him. Peter, on the other hand, seems to be completely ignorant to the idea that a deeper reality exists than the one he had been taught to see. This invitation of Jesus to see that deeper reality is more than just a change in lens to help us believe more correctly. It just might be the very doorway into the Kingdom of God.
I will still stop Zero from peeing on my neighbors plants, but I am learning to appreciate his unawareness of the expectation that he shouldn’t.
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