You may remember from your high school days reading the play "A Doll's House", written in 1879 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. If you don't remember it, here's a brief summary. From a then-contemporary setting, the character Nora lives a rather superficial life as a plaything or object of amusement and pleasure for her husband, Torvald. The play ends with Nora realizing that her life is empty with Torvald, as he believes that simply being his wife should satisfy her. In the end, she leaves him to seek her own self.
The play was taught in the 1970s as an early literary display for women's rights. But Torvald's selfishness is not just typical of men, but also of women. Our sinful nature distorts our views of other people as objects that exist for our own pleasure. That's because our nature reflects Satan's depravity that garbles reality. He always focuses on himself.
The prophet Isaiah delivers God's message that His people "honor Me with their mouths, while their hearts are far from Me." (29:13-16) The Lord mimics the foolishness of humanity with their own unbelief in the reality of God, "Who sees us? Who knows us?...Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its Maker, 'He did not make me' or 'He has no understanding'?"
When the Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples did not follow their traditions of cleanliness, Jesus quoted the Isaiah passage cited above. (Mark 7:6-7) The Pharisees believed that they could discern what is righteous on their own, just as Eve and Adam did in the Garden. Imposing expectations on others is just one excuse we use for not loving others. Comparing their self-seeking purposes to John the Baptist's true devotion to the Lord, Jesus said they were like children playing the flute, expecting others to dance, or singing a sad song, presuming tears from listeners. (Matthew 11:17) In other words, other people existed to please them.
Late summer is time for class and family reunions. Gathering with old friends and relatives to catch up on current aches, pains, grandchildren, etc. can be sweet. You always notice that others are suffering--everyone is and some live as if God does not exist. Life may for them be one crisis after another, but be patient with the Torvalds and Noras, as God has understood you, too. Torvald lost his playhouse, and Nora left one illusion for only another if she found merely her own self. We pray to the Lord to lead them (and/or ourselves) back to the Potter who made us.
He made us for His glory, and He is the reason for living. Aches, pains, and naughty grandchildren are explained to the believer way back in the times described in the Book of Genesis, long before the 1870s or 1970s. But the faith that He has given you, believer, delivers you from having to live according to human traditions or keeping that old family grievance. You're finally free to really love others as God loves them. You're forgiven by the Potter. Someday, you'll be completely redone--unbroken, no need for mending--to live with your beloved Maker forever. What a most blessed reunion! Gloria Deo--Glory to God.
Rev. Timothy Matthew
is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran
Church in Kennett.