Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs

September 21st, 2010

If you’re a student of psychology (or a student in any field that applies the behavioral sciences), you’ve likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow suggested that humans have a collection of fundamental needs, and that these needs are “hierarchical”. That is to say, some needs must be met in order to go on to seek after the “higher” needs.

As per the diagram below, Maslow suggests that physical needs are the base, followed by the need for safety, and then for love/belonging, and then for esteem. At the pinnacle, Maslow has placed “self-actualization”–a vague term for a number of feel-goods ultimately summed up in “reaching one’s potential”.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs
Image from the Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a CC 3.0 license

Maslow’s theory has been critiqued for its insistence that the “lower” needs be met before the higher needs are sought. Experience teaches us that even a hungry child still seeks love and acceptance (to fulfill a “higher” need). Additionally, while Maslow’s hierarchy may have utility in explaining Western patterns of behavior, it breaks down when applied to Eastern cultures where community is regarded more highly than individuality.

I don’t really care to discuss Maslow’s hierarchy–I’d much rather propose my own.

Enter Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs Induced by the Fall of Mankind:

I propose that the fall of mankind followed a progression–and that the redemption of mankind requires a reversal of that progression.

When Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, their first step towards sin was to turn their eyes from God to self.

“…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…”
~Genesis 3:6a

Having turned their eyes from God, they chose to obey the tempter rather than God.

“…she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
~Genesis 3:6b

And once they ate, they experienced the consequences of sin.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…”
~Genesis 3:7

The fall induced three vital needs in the spirit and soul of every man.

He needs to be saved from self-centeredness, he needs to be saved from the mastery of sin, and he needs to saved from the consequences of sin.

I propose that, at least for most people, the awareness of each of these needs follows the reverse progression.

First, man becomes aware of the consequences of sin–and seeks to escape them. He experiences guilt or shame. He sees broken relationships, physical and emotional suffering. He fears death. And he needs a Savior to free him from these consequences.

He receives Jesus as Savior. “Free me from hell,” he cries.

Get-out-of-hell-free card safely in hand, he discovers his second great need. He becomes aware of his bondage to sin. He wants to do what is right, but he finds himself unable to do so. Even recognizing that he IS freed from sin through Jesus Christ, he still finds himself inclined towards sin. He needs a new master.

He receives Jesus as Lord. “I will submit my life to Your mastery,” he affirms.

Watching his steps carefully, anxious to be obedient to his new master, the man discovers his final need. He is discontent with this. Somehow, this falls short. Is this all there is? he wonders. He might even wonder if it’s worth it. What has he gained by submitting to Christ’s mastery? He needs a new treasure.

And at some point, by the grace of God, he receives Jesus as Treasure. “You are worth everything,” he proclaims.

There, as he is lost in the greatness of the Treasure, his needs disappear. Christ has met them, He has fulfilled them. For really, all of our needs are simply metaphors for our truest need–God Himself.

(This is a reflection on John Piper’s concept of receiving Christ as Treasure, as articulated in the second chapter of Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

Beyond the Fairy Tale

February 3rd, 2010

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So you get my point about the fairy tales. You can see the sin, fallen-ness, rescue thing. But you’re still skeptical about the whole “Prince and Princess fall in love” bit. You think I’m over-romanticizing the Bible, turning it into a fairy tale.

Sure, I’ve taken some creative liberties with the story of redemption–but the idea of God pursuing us as a man pursues a woman is not new. In fact, it’s found all over Scripture.

Both Jesus and John refer to Christ as being a bridegroom.

When some people came to John, telling him about how Jesus was baptizing people and how people were coming to Him, John responded without jealousy: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” (John 3:29) John likens himself to the best man at a wedding where Jesus is the groom. John is ecstatic that the groom has arrived and the wedding approaches.

When others complained to Jesus that His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John did, Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:34-35) Jesus asks, “Why would you make the groomsmen fast during the celebration leading up to the wedding? When the groom leaves, then the groomsmen will fast.” It is clear that Jesus is speaking of Himself as the bridegroom, and His disciples as the groomsmen.

Paul also picks up this theme in I Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Like a father, or perhaps a matchmaker, who has arranged a match between Christ and the Corinthian church, Paul is rooting for the relationship to work. He speaks of his fear that somehow the bride will call off the match, “falling in love” with another man.

Let’s put the pieces together. We have Jesus, arriving on the scene, announcing that He is a bridegroom. He has paid a great bride-price, laying down His own life. The church is now betrothed to Christ–and Jesus has ascended to heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions….I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Jesus is now in heaven, preparing the place for His bride–but He has promised that He will return. “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

The very end of Revelation tells the end of this glorious story. “‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints….’Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” (Revelation 19:7-9)

Someday, the home shall be prepared, the groom shall return, the bride and the marriage supper shall be ready, and the story will draw to a close. The happily ever after will begin. Until that day, we–the church, the bride of Christ–wait in eager expectation. “And the spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’….Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17, 20)

Do you believe in fairy tales?

February 2nd, 2010

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A little girl puts on her dress up clothes and dreams of fairy tales come true. She’s Cinderella dancing at the ball with her Prince. She’s Rapunzel letting down her golden locks. She’s Sleeping Beauty awakened at last by true love’s kiss.

A pre-teen tosses her head at the immaturity of the boys around her. She’s old enough now to see that there are many more frogs than princes–but she dreams of her own knight in shining armor.

A high school senior still dreams of fairy tales, but she knows they’re only a dream. Life doesn’t even come close. She’s been groped by a hundred frogs, propositioned by a dozen clods. But nobody’s coming to whisk her from this world. She escapes into romance novels and chick flicks.

A thirty year old woman scorns her childish fantasies. Fairy tales. Figments of her imagination. They’re not worth believing in. There are no fairies for her, just like there’s been no Prince Charming. She’s done with fairy tales. She’ll make her own way now.

From our earliest childhood, fairy tales awakened in us universal longings. The longing for love, the longing for pursuit, the longing for rescue from the world that’s turned against us. At least, those are some of the longings fairy tales awake in me. But more than just awakening longings, fairy tales promised the fulfillment of those longing. A prince who loves me, who pursues me, who rescues me from the world turned against me.

Dreaming of this prince, we wait for our fairy tale–only to be disappointed when we find that life–well, life isn’t a fairy tale.

Disillusioned adults decry the fairy tale. It only sets girls up for disappointment. They replace the tales with feminist fables, stories of daring girls who need no man. But little girls still love their fairy tales.

Fairy tales are found in every culture–some of them surprisingly similar. Think of the thousands of variations on Cinderella you’ve heard or seen, in stories and movies. Fairy tales, despite seeming far from reality, are somehow an integral part of the human psyche.

Why do you think this is? Why do we continue to fall for the fairy tale when we see it so rarely in “real life”?

I’ve got a guess. I think we love fairy tales because, ultimately, fairy tales tell the story of God’s pursuit of us. The problem comes, the disillusionment begins when we seek the fulfillment of our fairy tales in man.

You’re skeptical. I can see it. Well, let me tell you a story–a Cinderella story if you will.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was enslaved inside her own father’s house. When the king issued an invitation to a ball He was holding for His Son, the girl wanted to go. But even her best efforts to produce a suitable ball gown resulted only in filthy rags. The girl cried in frustration–but even while she was still crying, who should appear but God-the-Father, who clothed her in a beautiful garment and presented her to His Son.

Too far-fetched, you say?

Well, how about the one about the innocent girl who disobeyed her guardians’ instructions and took an apple from a stranger? It looked good, but when the girl bit into the apple, it only brought her death. For years, she lay there, under the shadow of death, sleeping under the apple’s curse. But then one day, a prince came and saw the girl and loved her. He kissed her, freeing her from the curse.

Still sounds a bit outlandish?

What about the one where a beautiful maiden is locked in a high tower at the beck and call of a wicked witch. The witch uses the maiden’s beauty against her. But a Prince sees the beautiful maiden and falls in love with her. He purposes to destroy the witch and to release the maiden. At first, it appears that He had lost His quest, that the witch had gained power over Him–but in the end, He defeats the witch and takes the maiden to be His bride.

Do you begin to see the picture–the universal themes found in fairy tales? They echo a far greater tale, a tale that is no fairy tale. A God-tale.

For we, all of humanity, you and I, had an enemy who took us into slavery, partly by cunning, partly by our own foolishness and rebellion. Since that day, we have been enslaved, as dead, trapped under a curse, helpless to deliver ourselves. Yet, at just the right time, a Prince, the Son of the King, saw us and desired us. He saw beauty in us, despite our fallen state–and He resolved to break the curse.

At great cost to Himself, the Prince took on our captor, came face to face with our curse, and delivered us from slavery and certain death. Having done so, He betrothed us to Himself–and now eagerly awaits the consummation of that marriage.

I believe in fairy tales because I’m living one. My Prince has found me, has freed me, has betrothed Himself to me. I’m living a fairy tale–a fairy tale halfway between here and heaven.

Redemption

May 13th, 2005

I came perilously close to losing my scholarships this semester. Gradewise, there was no way I wasn’t supposed to get a C- in Physiology, requiring me to take it again and putting my GPA at something like 3.4978. I was bracing myself for the worst, expecting to lose my scholarship–have to work my way through school, reevaluate how to handle things. I was kicking myself for being so cocky at the beginning of the semester–“Sure it’s going to be tough taking Chemistry, Anatomy, and Physiology all in the same semester. But I can handle it.” Just barely.

So when I looked at my grades and discovered that I’d gotten a C in Physiology instead of a C-, I felt like the world had been handed me on a platter. I hadn’t lost my scholarships. I would have a chance
to redeem myself. That vein of thought continued for a while–I started to contemplate the concept of redemption.

I don’t think I’ve really valued redemption in my life as much as I should. I’ve known Christ since I was four years old. I’ve been a generally good kid. I’ve never done anything illegal or committed any
of those uncomfortably visible moral errors. I’ve always had good grades, despite having substandard study habits. I’ve always had a nice little life–why should I need redemption?

Of course, this thought is incorrect. I do need redemption–desperately. But I saw that in a new way when I saw that I had received a C in that class. The first words out of my mouth were, “Awesome, now I have a chance to redeem myself.” You see, I didn’t deserve a C in that class–by my own cockiness and lack of devotion to studying, I deserved to lose my scholarship. But, by the grace of God, I didn’t get what I deserved. I received better. Now, I have a chance to redeem myself–to prove that I have a right to the scholarship I received.

Just like I received my scholarships on the basis of merit that I didn’t necessarily have–unless being born “smart” counts as merit–any life that I have received is granted to me apart from my own merit. God
granted me life, not because I deserved it in any way. He just chose to give it to me. But I did not treat that life with respect. I used it for sin and sold my life in slavery to sin; just like I came within an
inch of losing my scholarship because of my own lack of dedication to my studies.

The difference between my scholarships and my life overall rests in this–I have received grace so that I might redeem myself in regard to my studies; I have received grace despite having no ability to redeem myself in regard to slavery to sin. I can learn to study and devote more time to studying to improve my grades–I can’t
do anything to solve my sin problem.

But the amazing thing about God is that what I was powerless to do, Christ did. “For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) I was completely powerless to redeem myself from sin–but Christ in His mercy took on flesh to become my kinsman redeemer. “But when the fullness of the
time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

Week in the Word was incredible. The time we spent in Ruth only served to confirm this concept of redemption. The story of Ruth models redemption in so many ways–outlining for us the role of a kinsman-redeemer. Perhaps the first qualification for a kinsman-redeemer is that the person be a kinsman. Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman
through his familial relationship with Elimelech (Ruth’s father in law). Christ became our kinsman by taking on human flesh. As Boaz agreed to redeem Ruth when she requested that he spread the corner of his garment over her, Christ chooses to redeem us when we come to Him for redemption. Just as the redemption of Ruth was part of the grand story of God’s agenda to bring glory to Himself by redeeming a people, our redemption is also part of the grander story. We are redeemed to bear fruit–“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16)

Redemption is a grand story that shows the lovingkindness of our Saviour. We were incapable of redeeming ourselves from the slavery into which we sold ourselves. So, Christ in His mercy took on flesh to become our kinsman. As our kinsman, He redeemed us. Now as our husband, He bears fruit in us–fruit that ultimately leads back to the glorification of God and the advancement of His program to redeem for Himself people from every nation.

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