Salvation in Stereo
by Kim Pullen
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"Lo-fi. Hi-fi. Wi-fi."
We were driving home from school the other day when my eight-year-old asked me what “hi-fi” was. Interesting, I thought. It shows just how different our generations are. Anyone from my generation knows what hi-fi is. Stereo, baby. As different from mono as FM is from AM.
But, then I had to answer the question, “What’s stereo?” I had to think for a minute. I knew what it was, but how do you explain it to an eight-year-old whose closest connection to sound engineering is an Ipod Shuffle? I pointed to my ears. “How many ears do we have?” She looked at me like I was addled. “Two,” she said. Duh. “That’s stereo. Listening with both ears.” It made sense to me, although I don’t think my daughter got it.
But then I started thinking some more, as I’m prone to do in Orlando traffic. I’ve been auditorially crippled lately in my Zumba class because our fitness studio sound system is handicapped with only one channel working. That’s mono or what I call lo-fi to you non-techies out there. In laymen’s terms it means that I don’t get the whole song through the speakers. I know what it’s supposed to sound like and it makes me crazy because you don’t get all the background vocals, and some of the cool riffs and seriously bonsai percussion are MIA. Essentially, you don’t hear the whole song the way the songwriter intended.
I’m still in O-town traffic so it made me think some more--isn’t this hi-fi/lo-fi thing kinda like how we hear the truth? God’s truth comes to us in stereo, if we have both ears open to hear it.
For example, a common argument in today’s religious circles is the balance between faith and deeds as necessary for salvation. In the early days, people wanted to kick the book of James out of the Bible (Martin Luther being the biggest proponent) because they thought James (2:20-24) contradicted Paul (Eph 2:8-9). But the blessed fathers of the canon were listening in stereo and they saw how these two passages and their concepts were a perfect blend for those willing to tune in.
And then, what about the long-standing dilemma over justice and mercy, law and grace? I grew up going to a hell, fire, and brimstone Bible church. I have vivid memories of our young minister screaming at me from the pulpit. I think I “prayed Jesus into my heart” about 30 times before I was 10 out of sheer terror. Later on in life, I heard sermons from other ministers that gave “apologetics” a whole new meaning, so quickly were they ready to make excuses for every firm stand the Bible took on sin.
Jesus presented a graphic example of God’s stand on this when he scattered the puffed-up Pharisees in John 8 (the adulterous woman) as thoroughly as he did the money-changers in John 2 (clearing the temple). And yet his approach in these two incidences was completely different. In John 2, he fashioned a whip and drove them out, so intense was his passion for obedience. In John 8, the whip was his tongue; it was as sharp and direct on the religious leaders’ ears as it was gentle and admonishing on the adulterous woman’s.
The sad reality is when it comes to listening and obeying the truth, we tend to favor one “channel” over the other, usually because of how we’re raised or in rebellion to how we’re raised. I’m a legalist by nature (I’m sure my well-intended childhood minister is partly to blame for that) and would have been very comfortable doing penance with the Pharisees. My husband is about as legalistic as "The Grateful Dead", partly due to the light-handed approach his parents took to discipline.
Now neither of these mindsets is necessarily bad, just as neither channel of a sound system is wrong. But they are INCOMPLETE WITHOUT EACH OTHER. My husband and I have a fantastic marriage because we’ve learned how to listen to our life in hi-fi. If not for him in my life, I’d be institutionalized and on a boatload of anti-depressants; if not for me in his life, he’d probably be in jail. Like I said, stereo, baby.
It’s true we may tend toward one side or the other—either we’re accused (the Legalistic channel) or we’re deceived (the Grace channel). But the Bible and its grand plan of salvation are in stereo and God is the Composer, Conductor, and Master Mixer all in one (eat your heart out John Williams). He wrote it, directed it, and blended it to give us a perfect harmonic melody with a universal symphonic orchestra thrown in for good measure.
As Jesus said, he who has earS (plural) to hear, let him hear. Now if I can only find my ear buds.
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