In the seventeenth chapter of Genesis it is written: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said; I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Although we can hardly hope to attain perfection in the infinite sense, it is entirely possible for us to fit perfectly into our highest and best destiny, to attain all that God has set before us. When we achieve this, in accordance with His will, we will be just as replete in our finite domain as God himself is in his sphere of infinity and eternity. We may not be universal, unlimited in intellectual insight, or final in any spiritual sense, but God is working right now to perfect our motivation, and our understanding of his will for us.
We live in a strife-torn world. And honing our effectiveness when the situation demands articulation in matters of faith and a world of competing ideas, is essential if we are to fulfill our ministerial obligations. Perfection in life temporal is a progressive attainment; and this applies to discernment and perception. God reveals himself to us in accordance with our capacity to behold him. Because we each minister within our own sphere of influence, it is important to see that world and its proper context within God’s Universe of Universes.
As we blow through our circumscribed world view and challenge each other’s assumptions, we become better positioned to explore the notion of adjusting to Infinity and Eternity. We are ambassadors of an Infinite and Eternal Heavenly Kingdom operating on an isolated, temporal, finite, rebellion torn world. Our understanding of this world and its people is crucial to our success.
In what became known as his Whit Sunday Sermon, C.S. Lewis discussed “transposition.” His treatise is not so much about modulating from the key of C to D but rather taking Truth from a higher plane to a lower plane or from a higher to a lower language. Lewis illustrated the problem of portraying Spiritual realities this way:
“If you are to translate from a language which has a large vocabulary, into a language that has a small vocabulary, then you must be allowed to use several words in more than one sense. If you are to write a language with twenty two vowel sounds in an alphabet with only five vowel characters then you must be allowed to give each of those five characters more than one value. If you are making a piano version of a piece originally scored for an orchestra, then the same piano notes which represent flutes in one passage must also represent violins in another.”
He continued: “As the examples show we are all quite familiar with this kind of transposition or adaptation from a richer to a poorer medium. The most familiar example of all is the art of drawing. The problem here is to represent a three-dimensional world on a flat sheet of paper. The solution is perspective, and perspective means that we must give more than one value to a two-dimensional shape. Thus in a drawing of a cube we use an acute angle to represent what is a right angle in the real world. But elsewhere an acute angle on the paper may represent what was already an acute angle in the real world: for example, the point of a spear on the gable of a house. The very same shape which you must draw to give the illusion of a straight road receding from the spectator is also the shape you draw for a dunces’ cap.”
In summary, Lewis said: “It is clear that in each case what is happening in the lower medium can be understood only if we know the higher medium. The instance where this knowledge is most commonly lacking is the musical one. The piano version means one thing to the musician who knows the original orchestral score and another thing to the man who hears it simply as a piano piece. But the second man would be at an even greater disadvantage if he had never heard any instrument but a piano and even doubted the existence of other instruments. Even more, we understand pictures only because we know and inhabit the three-dimensional world.”
Jesus routinely shared concepts that were foreign to many of his followers. The mysteries of the kingdom were presented in what he called parables. To his enemies such parables were not understood and thus would not arouse antagonisms. The parabolic analogy, whereby the story has a directing arc and a principle focus, is also an ingenious way to convey meaning that gracefully transcends gender, culture, and time. When you are working with masses, individuals, or groups of varying intellects and temperaments, you cannot speak different words for each class of hearers. You can however tell a story to convey meaning and each individual, will be able to make his or her own interpretation of your parable in accordance with their own intellectual and spiritual endowments.