Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our lives our not lived in vain

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time this last week thinking about the tragedy at Ft. Hood. To think about the families who are now grieving the loss of a son or daughter or a mom or dad is enough to cause any of us to experience all manner of emotions – anger, sadness, fear. To think of the lives that these men and women had built, the plans they had formed, the dreams they still held onto that very morning – all gone in a moment – it can lead you to despair. Does God love us? Is he really in control or will evil simply have its way forever? Is there any reason to try and do good in this world around us?

In a very strange way, the tragedy itself, or rather the response to the tragedy, reminds us that evil has not yet won the day. That we get angry at such events (and many other smaller incarnations of evil as well) reminds us that there is something deep inside of us that recognizes that the world was not meant to be this way. The great Desmond Tutu, who has witnessed his share of evil, once wrote, “It is only because we believe people should be good that we despair when they are not. Indeed, if people condoned the evil, we would be justified in losing hope. But most of the world does not. We know that we are meant for better.” We were meant for better, indeed!

The Bible tells us that we were meant for God and for one another - that our lives were meant to bring glory to our creator and to bless our neighbor. Our efforts to do so, however, so often seem in vain. Our small acts of faithfulness or mercy seem to be a drop in the bucket compared to the selfish bullying that happens around us. My guess is the world has always seemed that way. Until that one day, when the world awoke to find an instance in which the darkness could not shut out the light. Until that one morning when the executioner’s work failed to keep righteousness at bay. Until that day when God raised Jesus from the dead. And that “better” that we were meant for was put on display for all to see.

The Bible describes this cataclysmic event as an advanced sign of what God is doing in the world. Paul calls Jesus the firstborn from the dead meaning that someday, we too shall follow in his footsteps. Those who are in Christ shall be raised! No matter what tragedies may have happened in our lives, no matter what evil has seemed to have prevailed, we shall live! And none this “sitting in the clouds playing harps” kind of life that you see on TV, that may make for good commercials but it’s not what the Bible talks about when it talks about eternal life. No when the Bible says, we shall live again, that’s what it means. We shall live, physical (though radically transformed!) lives. Evil will be undone and by the same power that God raised Jesus from the dead, he will make a new heaven and a new earth and the world will be as we have always known deep down that it should be.

This is our gospel hope. And far from escapism, the gospel calls us to persevere in goodness today. For we trust that one day evil will be a thing of the past, but goodness and mercy and love will have prevailed in Christ. This is why Paul, after expounding on our future resurrections, told a beleaguered and persecuted group of believers, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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