God's Filter

By Kersley Fitzgerald

I read a story some time ago about a boy who liked to hand fish off of a dock. He was the best hand-fisher in his family. But he did it in an odd way. He'd found a piece of glass near the lake. When he fished, he'd hold it up to his face with one hand and grab the fish with the other. It wasn't until he was gone that his sister, the narrator of the story, found the glass and looked through it to see what he saw. What she saw was a clear image under the water without the glare of the sun. The glass was polarized.

"Wow. That's interesting, science-girl. But what does this have to do with, you know, Jesus and stuff?"

I'm glad you asked. But hold on tight because we're about to get seriously metaphorical.

God's filter shows the world as it really is

When sunlight comes to us, it first passes through the atmosphere, where air particles diffuse the light, scattering it slightly. That's not all bad; we wouldn't be able to see in shade very well if the light wasn't scattered, which is why the side of the moon that faces away from the sun is so dark, and the side of Mercury that faces away from the sun is -333 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the light reaches the lake, the surface of the water reflects most of the light waves back up. If you're faced the right direction, the lake looks like a big glowy thing, not clear water with fish and rocks and mud underneath. Polarized glasses would block most of the light coming at you with sunlight's particular wave orientation. When those glary light waves are blocked, you'll see more clearly, whether it's the bottom of the lake bed or the shade under a tree. You can see that the lake bed is inhabited by a fresh water kraken who wants to eat you, or that the ground under the tree is covered by carnivorous poison ivy.

God's worldview is akin to polarized glasses. Unlike sunlight, God's light is pure and perfect and shines equally on everything, far more scattered than light through the atmosphere. As His light passes through the world, the world's filter blocks most of the goodness and aligns the waves to hide dangers and draw us toward the shiny, glowy things it has to offer. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13), and we fall for it. The glare can blind us. If we look from the perspective of God's worldview, we can see beyond the glitz and glamour, success and fame, money and popularity. Seeing the world from God's perspective alerts us to the dangers the enemy has set up to destroy us.

This, I think, is a metaphor for Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." "Renewing of our minds" here is taking on the filter that is polarized in God's direction and seeing things through His point of view. It is filtering away the glare of the world and seeing beneath the surface of things to what's really there.

Crossed filters block all the light

Have you ever been riding in a car, fiddling with your sunglasses, then realized that if you turn your glasses a certain way, they block all the light? What's happened is that you turned the polarization of your glasses perpendicular to the polarization of the shade on your windshield. And possibly crashed into the car in front of you. Let's just try it with a flat screen computer monitor instead. Two cross-polarized filters will block out almost all the light, even if the filters are embedded in transparent materials.

This came to mind the other day when I heard of an argument between an angry atheist and a Christian. The atheist's worldview was directly opposed to God's. Granted, the Christian was not making his argument in a palatable way, but because of the crossed polarization, no light came through at all. The Christian couldn't understand why the atheist would have the view he did. And the atheist saw the Christian's argument — and God — as nothing but a black hole. This is what Romans 3:11 talks about when it says there is no one who understands or seeks for God. We can't understand God's point of view if we're trying to define it on the world's terms. The whole shebang cancels out. And what does God's point of view say about the world? That it's all darkness.

The world's light shows the glare, God's view shows the wounds

Two crossed filters will block the light, but place a hard, transparent object between them and the fun really starts. It's called photoelasticity. If you hold a transparent piece of plastic between two perpendicular polarizing filters, the strain of the material appears as rainbow stripes. See here for a great example, or do it yourself with your computer monitor, a pair of polarized glasses, and a tape dispenser or plastic spoon. Why would anyone want to do this? Make a plastic model of a complicated shape, study it under the filter, then you can see where you can improve upon the design by beefing up the edges with flanges or shaving off material to save weight.

Similarly, if we look at someone who is living in the "light" of the world through God's filter, we will be able to see the wounds they've accumulated. We'll see where the world's stresses have left strains on their lives. They think they're living in the light, but God's point of view blocks out the false shininess and shows what's really going on — the toil it takes on bodies, minds, and spirits — when we live in the world. Or, as someone once said, "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

To take the metaphor to its ultimate conclusion: only the Holy Spirit can rotate a polarized filter so we can see things from God's point of view (1 Corinthians 2:11). We are so distracted by the shiny, glowy things around us that we forget that light can hide dangers underneath — and hide the damage those dangers have inflicted. Seeing the world through God's filter shows what's really going on. We can keep away from the kraken, avoid the man-eating ivy, and identify the wounded. Jesus is the only true light which enlightens (John 1:9).

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Published 1-24-13