Recognizing the Unrecognizable

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Recently, I watched a group of scientists seeking the site of a huge sea battle occurring about 400 years ago. During that battle, a huge fleet representing European commercial interests confronted a huge Ottoman fleet. Both fleets were determined to control commerce on the Mediterranean Sea. An important by-product of the battle was the direction of world civilization.

The scientists painstakingly researched ancient records. Then, they took a ship outfitted with the latest technology to the area of the battle in the Mediterranean Sea. Lastly, they used divers to perform “hands on, actual sight” investigations and recovery.

It astounded me that part of the site was located after being under water for 400 years. Shorelines change! It astounded me even more that they recognized metal objects covered with the rust and corrosion of 400 years in salt water. For example, a diver recognized and recovered a sword handle. It was so corroded it did not look like a sword handle. It looked like a worthless part of the sea bed. However, the diver knew what he was looking for and recognized a valuable find when he saw it—in spite of enormous corrosion! To recognize a metal object after 400 years of rust is unthinkable!

Consider something more astounding. God recognized in us something of value after centuries of rust and corrosion through sin. He did not merely remove the corrosion so an ancient, flawed object became apparent. He removed the rust and restored us to a form that reflects His image, as He intended in creation. He has the power to remove the corrosion, restore the object, and allow the object to reflect Him! Incredibly, God sees through the corrosion of sin!

If we could see one human adult untouched by sin and compare that person to human adults submerged in centuries of sin, we would be astounded! What would astound us? We would be astounded (1) by the amount of corrosion, (2) the amount of distortion created by moral rust, (3) and by the fact God recognized anything. However, God knows what He is looking for and recognizes it when He sees it—in spite of the amount of rust and distortion.

The challenge for us as Christians is to recognize (as individuals and congregations) objects of value in people who are covered and distorted by sinfulness’ rust. The reason this challenge gives Christians so much trouble lies in our failure to see our own rustiness. Whatever has been removed from us, God removed. The goal of our obedience is merely to express our gratitude.

He or she who takes credit for the process of his or her own rust removal is sadly lacking in an understanding of God’s work in Jesus’ death and resurrection! The ultimate expression of gratitude is to see others’ need for rust removal and bring them to God. Only by removing rust can anyone reflect God.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 17 January 2008

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