Extracting the Precious from the Worthless

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2

… if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. Jeremiah 15:19

Children like candy, not fine wine or espresso. The pleasure of a thing must be immediate and overwhelming and simple. Teenagers like pop music and hip hop, not Bach fugues and Beethoven string quartets. The finer pleasures are more complex, and to a child seem to taste horrible and bitter, to sound like so much noise, to make no sense at all. One must have experience and be trained to apprehend more complex pleasures. Most herbs of themselves taste terrible, but in perfect moderation and mixed with the right ingredients they make the meal a wonder. Most great wisdom is clothed in strange sayings and difficult parables and puzzles. Immediate pleasures are fleeting, but the greater pleasures which are more lasting and more satisfying are also more difficult to apprehend and enjoy.

The greater pleasures are hidden. So God is invisible, and so God’s greatest work in expressing mercy and justice is hidden in the horrendous act of the crucifixion. God’s wisdom is concealed in foolishness, and God’s beauty is concealed in ugliness. So in preaching the message of radical grace, the constant fear is that the hearers will be released to run after damaging and sinful pleasures. It actually frees us from the prison of pretending to like what we hate, from the obligation to adhere to a practice that we only wish to escape from.

In the prison of obligation, we are not allowed to let our desires mature. The law does not allow us to touch on the subject of our actual loves, so they remain puerile and fixed on childish things. We want the candy of sin because the law tells us we must not want it. Under grace, we are free to want what we want, to love what we love, and we begin to explore our true loves. We begin to see that childish pleasures are like candy, and hold little satisfaction. Serial promiscuous sexual liaisons do not actually satisfy like a long-term soul-level life-sharing love does. Grace frees us to begin to acknowledge what we truly like, and to pursue the greater pleasure of giving the gift of our own empowerment and grace to edify and build up others, to enjoy much greater pleasures of worship and wisdom, than the law would prescribe or lead us to.

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