I know what you’ve been thinking!  “When can I get my hands on another reflection on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?”  Well, I’m glad that you ask because I’ve got what you need!  I have spent a good amount of time processing her fantastic work and something else stands out to me.  That ‘something else’ is the line, “The fire was both pleasing and painful.” 

After experiencing such a foundational element like fire, the monster expresses something that we all have allowed to fall out of our consciousness – that fire represents both the best of what’s good and the worst of what is bad.  Fire can bring light, beauty, benefit, and life.  But in its intensity, it can also bring blindness, destruction, disorientation, and death.  The result, like so many things in this world, depends on how it is wielded. 

Though it is painful to admit, an important and distinct application of this concept is seen in religion, and Christianity very specifically.  To humanity that needs a Savior, we receive the Light of the world (John 8:12), the most beautiful representation of our God who offers the ultimate benefit in the cross and resurrection because He is the only Way, the ultimate Truth, and the presentation of Life (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:13-14; John 14:6). 

However, religion also has the possibility of causing great harm.  In its zealousness, it can lead people to fight for power or pride, blinding us to the objective goodness of God.  It can destroy a testimony to a Messiah who is Love and commanded His followers to love God and love others as the foundation for all else (1 John 4:16; Matthew 22:36-40).  It can disorient its adherents away from grace and towards a need to earn one’s salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  It can ultimately bring death because, instead of hearing the Truth of the Good News, people might be distracted by a counterfeit religious system that in no way resembles the God we serve (Exodus 20:7).

Unlearning the Doctrine of Discovery | Sojourners
Execution of Incan Emperor, Atahuallpa (1497-1533). Shutterstock.

I’ve been spending a lot of time learning from Native American/Indigenous Christ-followers and their experience of following their Creator despite heart-wrenching things that have been done in His name.  They must find the objective truth of the beautiful Gospel which frees their souls despite how this same Gospel has so often been replaced with cultural mandates to adhere to that are found nowhere in Scripture (Galatians 3:28, 2:11-13).  Shocking teachings like the papal edict, the Doctrine of Discovery, put legs to a dehumanizing effort to build empires rather than loosen spiritual chains and the effects of this teaching are still very clearly felt today.  Similarly in the news today, we can see how certain segments of the Russian Orthodox Church choose to support Putin’s political agenda rather than to allow the power of the Gospel to stand in opposition to his crimes against humanity.

All of this can teach us today that we have the wonderful opportunity to show the world a Fire, a Christianity, that brings the Light of the world – the Beauty of God – to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners – all who mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). 

In turn, we deny the temptations to follow all forms of Christianity which seek worldly power or which place ourselves before others (Philippians 2:3; Luke 22:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:24), but choose instead to follow in the footsteps of our Savior who humbled Himself even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11) so that others might come to know Him as their own.

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

Fire, Both Pleasing & Painful

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