December 24, 2008

Wounded Angel

When the apostle Paul cited extrabiblical sources (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12; etc.), he did so to clarify some spiritual point for his readers, without meaning to imply any endorsement of the particular source. In a similar way, our author’s focus on the lessons to be drawn from the painting discussed does not in any way imply a blanket approval of the painter or his works. The article restricts itself to one painting, and one only.—Editors.
2008 1536 page14 capugo Simberg’s painting The Wounded Angel (see sidebar) looked startlingly out of place on the wall of the little church. After all, according to Hebrews 1:14, angels are “ministering spirits.” They instruct us (Dan. 8:1519), and, according to Psalm 91:11, 12, they protect and keep us from harm: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” I had no problems with the other picture—that of an angelic being hovering over two little children in a dangerous situation, but the one with a wounded angel . . .!
Let’s face it. I had grown up with the verse, “they shall bear thee up in their hands” (KJV), but in Simberg’s painting the situation is reversed. Here two boys are carrying an angel, a wounded angel. One wing is damaged and spotted with blood; and the being droops, head hung down (as if in shame), eyes bandaged or blindfolded.
2008 1536 page14The boy leading the procession also hangs his head, his eyes focused downward. But his companion, walking directly behind the angel, has his head turned and eyes directed to the viewer—and averted from the subject, as if unwilling to focus on the angel’s misery. His woebegone face, the dark clothing of the boys, and the somber landscape in the background reflect the general gloom of the composition. In fact, the only bright spot in the entire picture is the wounded angel.
Which presents another conundrum. According to Psalm 103:20, angels “excel in strength” (KJV). Yet the little angel sitting hunched over on the handbarrow looks frail and vulnerable, unable to see because of the bandage, unable to fly, and needing someone to support and carry it.
Obviously, it was not meant to be a real angel, but a symbol of something else. Could it be that it symbolizes a class of people who also instruct and minister to God’s people?
Your Very Human Pastor
Perhaps Simberg’s angel represents the pastor or minister of a local church. Sin has made our world a dark place, full of problems. When we have spiritual problems, we go to our pastor. When we have disagreements with fellow church members, we go to our pastor. When we have financial problems, we go to the pastor. When we have family or marital problems, we go to the pastor. We expect this one person to solve all our problems for us. Sometimes they do, but usually their prayers, encouragements, and counsel just make the burdens more bearable. And we feel better, knowing that there is someone who cares.
But the pastor is also human and subject to the same temptations and weaknesses that the rest of us have. Like us, the pastor cannot see the future or what is in people’s hearts, and so might make mistakes. Besides this, as the shepherd and spiritual leader of the church, the pastor is under constant attack, for Satan knows that if he can bring the shepherd down, the sheep will scatter.
When hit by one of the fiery darts of the devil, where can the pastor or other church leaders go? Oh, I know, God is always there, but as human beings we also look for human sympathy, human understanding, human
support. Even Jesus, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, craved human encouragement. Returning to His disciples three times, He looked for signs that they were agonizing with Him.
2008 1536 page14Incoming Enemy Fire
What happens when one of our church leaders (“ministering angels,” so to speak) is so pinned down by enemy fire that they cannot carry out their duties as they would like to? Do we rush to their side to help? Or do we bring about their demise by a bombardment of our own “friendly fire” of criticism? What do we do when our brothers or sisters stumble and fall? Do we tell the world, or do we tell them that with God’s help and our support they can get up again?
In Galatians 6:1 Paul advises us: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path” (NLT).* Verse 2, in the New American Standard Bible, says, “Bear one another’s burdens.”†
When a person is overcome with guilt, do we add to their load, or do we share it?
I have a friend who cares for injured birds of prey until they are well enough to soar to new heights and fend for themselves. In the same way we also should care for the “wounded angels” among us.We should comfort them, encourage them, and carry them if need be, until they’re able to fly again.  


*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
†Scripture quotations credited to New American Standard Bible are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Elfriede Volk, married with four children and several grandchildren writes from Summerland, British Columbia.