I wasn’t sure how to title this column. “Undercover Faith” will do – although the first two stories took place not under covers but under beds. Eventually, we need to get to “Subterranean Faith.”
The first story
When Pastor Chuck was little, his grandfather told him a monster named “Bohunkus” lived under Chuck’s bed. You can imagine what that did for Chuck’s ability to sleep.
One night, as Chuck begged his father not to leave, his father said: “Son, we have to put an end to your fear of this so-called monster, Bohunkus. I want you to sleep under your bed tonight.”
As Chuck, wailing even louder, crawled under his bed, he was thinking: “I must have the cruelest dad in the world. How could my dad do this to me?”
Then his dad, with two pillows and a blanket, crawled under the bed with him.
Aha; if a father would love like this, how far will God go to show his love?
The second story
A pastor friend, Bryan, preached the funeral of another pastor friend, Petros, after Petros committed suicide. Bryan told the gathering about a missionary family from Africa. Seeing so many impoverished street children, the missionaries decided to adopt one. The adopted boy had never known his father. His mother was addicted and abusive.
When the boy came to his new home, he had not learned to respond to love. His life had been focused on attempting to avoid abuse.
One day, the boy could not find his comb. He took his new father’s comb and forgot to return it. When asked if he had taken it, the son said: ‘No.” But his mother replied: “Is that Dad’s comb sticking out of your pocket?” Anticipating abuse, he ran. He ran to his room and crawled beneath his bed.
Bryan told the congregation: “The child was not prepared for what happened next. The bedspread lifted, and the boy’s adopted mother crawled into the darkness with him. She took his face in her hands, put her head next to him, and said: ‘What you have done did not get you into this family; and what you do will not get you out of this family.’”
Aha, if a mother would be so kind, how great is God’s grace?
A contrary consideration
These are wonderful stories. But, we live in a world where “under cover” -- or “without cover” -- events have taken place where God has not been represented but -- for a time -- evil has triumphed -- often with children. Abuse, incest, rape scar children. Thank God, for a deeper story.
The most astonishing story
In my office two Christian leaders were talking about how our country needs to return to God. But, how? One told a story: “I’m reminded of a young man who asked an older man: ‘How do I find God?’ The older man took the younger man to a river and held the younger man’s head under water. When the younger man came up sucking air, the older man said: ‘When you want God as much as you wanted that next breath, then you’ll find him.’”
My other friend heartily agreed. But, I thought: “Is that what we want to advocate? No.”
So, I replied: “No doubt we need zeal in seeking God. Jesus began his Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” -- those who are desperate for God. But a DESPERATION precedes ours. This is the DESPERATION of Jesus for his people -- the ones for whom he came to die.”
“As striking as the incarnation is -- God becoming man -- redemption by crucifixion -- God dying in our place -- reaches a greater depth. Why? Jesus tells the Father: ‘I want those you have given me to be with me’ (Jn 17:24). What is behind his passionate “WANT?” He LOVED us. Why? The Bible tells us he LOVED us because he LOVED us. He knew that only by his blood could he pay for our sins.”
“At the Last Supper, despite the approaching bloody agonies of Gethsemane and the cross, Jesus exposed his heart: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). How eager is his “eager desire?” Jesus defines “desire” by using it in two of his stories:
- the starving prodigal son - so hungry he was “longing” to eat pigs’ food (Lk 15:16), and
- a poor beggar named Lazarus who “longed” to eat the crumbs that fell from a rich man’s table (Lk 16:20).
Now, Jesus declares his “eager desire.” By adding “eager,” Jesus multiplies the force of his desire. MULTIPLIES! His DESPERATE DESIRE precedes ours. Astonishing!”
One friend replied: “It’s good to talk about the things of the Lord.” The other agreed.
This is the Good News of Jesus. He loved us first -- deeply. By his love, he changes individuals and families and cities and whole cultures.
How high is he? Psalm 113:5 “Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?”
How low will he go? The Psalmist continues: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.”
And how does he raise the poor and needy? He is so humble; picture him coming up underneath them.
Christian, and those yet to trust him, no matter how far we have sunk, he comes up beneath us! The depth of the good news of Jesus is Subterranean Faith!
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best! ’Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest! O the deep, deep love of Jesus! ‘Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me; and it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee (Trevor Francis, 1875).
Steve Bostrom, a descendant of Swedish homesteaders, husband of Via, father of eight, and grandfather of nine, loves Helena and serves here as a pastor at large. The Presbyterian Church in America oversees his work. To contact him, email: email@example.com. If you would like access to previous columns, please go to www.stevebostrom.com.