It is widely known that I love coffee. Love is perhaps the wrong word—I adore coffee. And not just any coffee, mind you, that commercial stuff most of you drink is not to touch my lips. I have to be hard pressed to swallow the stale, flat, and burned remains of a once-proud coffee bean. My morning brew is home roasted. I manage the whole process, from the green bean to the shimmering cup. I only drink fresh, superior grade, specialty coffee. Yes, I am a coffee snob, and I am gleefully unrepentant about it.
And yet coffee consistently fails to provide me with good teaching material. As metaphors go, it is quite horrible. Almost everything true in the world of coffee is contrary to what is true in the spiritual realm. Let me illustrate my point with some coffee truisms:
- Origin determines the finish
The region where the coffee grows determines the taste in the cup. Levels of acidity, sugars, etc. are all a result of the soil and altitude. This is why Kenyan coffee is so different from Guatemalan coffee.
Spiritually, this is all wrong. Kenyans may look different to Guatemalans, but “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:26–29) It is encounter, not origin that determines the finish.
- Environmental variables affect the outcome
The ambient temperature, the fluctuations in electrical current, and the current humidity all affect the roasting cycle. The environment makes all the difference to the end result.
Again, this is all wrong. The variables of life do not threaten the outcome for the believer. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38–39) Our lives may seem chaotic, but the end is sure.
- Consistency is impossible
Roasting is a temperamental business. Even when using the same bean with a tested roast profile, the outcome is always uncertain. There simply are no guarantees and consistency is all but impossible.
And again, this is all wrong. When faith leads us into a relationship with God, his continued involvement ensures our ultimate perfection. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23) It is the Spirits restorative presence within us that ensures our ultimate perfection.
As a metaphor for redeeming grace, coffee fails miserably. But it can serve as an example of God’s common grace. In a frequently bitter world, my morning cup gives me a momentary foretaste of my future joy.