Monday, March 24, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 20

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of
Last time, we started with a Bob Dylan quote.  It was a good starting point, then. And it's a good place to begin, today. Bob Dylan said, "All I can do is be me, whoever that is.".  Most of us don't look, act, think like Bob Dylan.  For that matter, we aren't exactly the same as our next door neighbor.  And that's true whether we're Christian or not.

Staying with the analogy of the title of our series, we all start as coal.  But no two pieces are alike.  Some don't have enough substance to withstand any pressure.  Others go through less pressure, remain as pieces of coal, but lack enough substance to be very useful for anything coal is normally used for.  Still others are good coal, but never face any pressure to be transformed.  But what of the rest of the coal, the ones who go through the pressure well?

Some of the coal that's lacking in quality still gets through that period of pressure.  It becomes diamonds, but with flaws from the original air pockets in the coal.  Other pieces of coal are flawless or have fewer flaws.  We've talked about all of that, before.  But let's look at the next stage.

The illustration, today, is actually a glass copy of the Kohinoor Diamond, after some of the cutting and polishing, but before that process has been completed.  There was actually further cutting and polishing before the Kohinoor Diamond reached its final state.  Let's talk about that, a bit.

A diamond cutter studies each diamond to determine the best way to cut it to maximize its beauty. He will put aside some that he realizes their shape or coloring or flaws won't allow for a good cut diamond as the end product.  They might even shatter if cut.  The rest may be cut and polished in stages, with re-examination after each step, or one continuous process.

John 13:33a (KJV)  Little children, yet a little while I am with you.

That's Jesus, getting closer to the time of His crucifixion.  He's talking to the disciples, acknowledging their spiritual genetic heritage.  Think of our series analogy.  Whether a stone is coal (useful or not) or a diamond (cuttable or not), it's still a form of coal.  The piece of coal doesn't have to recognize that there's a miner or cutter involved for that to be a fact or for the miner and cutter to act.  The miner and cutter don't need the stone's recognition or permission to work toward the most acceptable result.  But we know that the miner and cutter want the stone to have its greatest possible value.  Keep the diamond cutter in mind as we touch on our genetic heritage.

As descendants of the first parents, there's both a physical and spiritual genetic heritage.  We stem directly from them, almost directly from God, since He created them.  That's a blessing. Unfortunately, the choices made by Eve, then Adam, tainted the genetics of all creation.  But those genetics weren't fully eradicated.  Man doesn't have that power.  Along with that, there are both kinds of genetics from our birth parents.  The birth parents contribute the physical, God contributes the spiritual through them.  But, perhaps more important, God controls whether the sperm and the egg meet and mate or pass like two ships in the night.

While parentage plays a role in our genetics of both types, that reaches a point and stops, at least until we're working on creating the next generation.  But God continues to work on the spiritual genetics.  This is where we mix our metaphors a bit.  We start like coal in the ground, where life places whatever pressures there will be.  Much of the coal remains as coal, but the pressure on some is sufficient to create diamonds.  That's life.  When the coal is mined, it's burned.  God is described in the Bible as light.  The spiritual genetics of coal is such that when it's burned, it generates much more heat than internalized light it releases.

When diamonds are created by pressure, they still need to be removed from the ground in order to be used, just like coal.  And, just like the coal it came from, it can be burned for heat.  But diamonds don't burn as well as coal -- that's not the purpose of a diamond.  A diamond is intended to reflect and refract the light around it.  In the spiritual realm, allegorical diamonds aren't much use for generating heat, but they are perfect for showing off the spiritual light of God.  Most don't look like much when they are taken out of the ground.  That's where an expert diamond cutter comes in.

The diamond cutter has taken the time to know each diamond, even before the first cut.  Some diamonds are so shaped or flawed that cutting will only shatter them.  They may be touched by the chisel, saw, or laser (God, usually in the form of the Word of God), but never be cut.  Those may not show off light best, but they're good for showing how to recognize diamonds in the ground.  They'll remain diamonds in the rough.

The diamonds that are cut start with a rough cut to retain the maximum weight and size, to shape the stone in a way that will best work around the flaws, and to make best use of the stone's coloring. Sometimes, a stone is split to make more than one gem.  Because, for that stone, that's the best way to maximize the light.  Whether that happens or the stone remains whole, the full process of turning it into a valuable gem will remove 50% of the original weight.  Think of John as he says in John 3:30 (KJV), "He must increase, but I must decrease.".  That's a necessary part of properly showing spiritual light.

If we think of the various handled tools as various preachers and teachers, the Cutter holds them and uses them to guide the tools in cutting, shaping, and polishing a diamond.  Because of the hardness of a diamond, the blades are coated with bits of diamond.  Proverbs 27:17 (KJV), "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.".  We shape each other in ways that improve each of us.

There's even a process called "bruting", where two diamonds are actually on spinning axles, turning in opposite directions, grinding against each other to shape each other.  It made me think of pastors or theologians with differing doctrinal views.  Each takes in its own segment of light and that's all it can reflect.  But the brute (or "bruting") force of arguing their doctrinal viewpoints will shape both to better reflect and refract their given portions of the light.  Because the light is too vast for any one diamond to show off all of it.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but I always thought that any given stone was always cut to maximize clarity, brilliance, and value.  That's not true.  There are many times when the output is many smaller, less brilliant diamonds that will sell quicker.  Perhaps as chips in earrings or necklaces, instead of being the centerpiece of some piece of jewelry.  In terms of spiritual light, there's some that will be pastors and teachers, shaping other diamonds.  Others will be like major theologians, so well defined, so brilliant, and hold so much light that they are of greater value, but are viewed by a smaller audience and aren't understood as soon to be sold quickly.

Most of the church is like those smaller less brilliant diamonds and diamond chips.  They get into the world sooner, spread around more.  They may not have the glamor of the big stones, but they fit in better with the rest of the world.  Because they're more easily accepted, they can share the light, perhaps in less refined ways, but in more places.

God is the Miner and the Cutter.  Whether a stone (person) is a piece of coal (an unbeliever) or has been transformed by the pressure into a diamond (a believer), each has a use and a value.  And, amongst diamonds, there is a place for every single one.  No matter how little or great the brilliance. No matter the size.  Every stone responds to the pressure and the cutting as its nature allows.  The piece of coal will never end up in the same final place as a diamond, but it still has its use and its purpose in the plan.

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