Saturday, December 15, 2012

Longing for things to be made right

For the past month, I've found myself saying these words more and more often.

It's been 285 days since we've had measurable snowfall in Chicago. It's not right.

It's getting harder and harder to find foods in the form in which God made them. It's not right.

Two of my good friends are struggling under the weight of chronic illness which, among other sadnesses, compromises their ability to care for their children.  It's not right.

A little boy, less than six months old, has a near brush with death because of a brain tumor. It's not right.

Twenty children die in an elementary school shooting. It's not right.

The world is broken. Creation is unraveling. Things are not the way they are supposed to be.

Repay evil with evil or overcome evil with good? Seek vengeance or forgiveness? Doubt everything and everyone or trust? Come to terms with what is or seek change? Preserve and protect or let go? Save or give? Despair or hope? These are the tensions that we live into every day. Since the dawn of time, human hearts have been conflicted.

Recently, my kids are getting to the age when they're asking the perennial questions of evil. "God can control the weather, so why doesn't He stop hurricanes? Why doesn't God wipe out the mosquitoes that cause malaria? Ordinary mosquitoes are bad enough! Why do we have to get the flu? Why do people shoot each other?" Different clothes on the same question body... "Why are things so broken?" It's not right.

And my heart aches... because it's true. Things are so broken. The world is not the way it's supposed to be. It's not right.

Just by speaking, God made everything! In the beginning, everything was good. Adam and Eve were happy to be made in God's own image. God was glad, because when He looked at His world, He saw that everything was right... Adam and Eve trusted God's strong and powerful words.

Satan crept into the garden, looking like a snake. Satan hated God. Satan wanted to BE God and would do whatever it took to turn God's people away from God. And so he asked questions... about God's goodness, about God's word, and about God's good rule. Adam and Eve had a very important choice. They could choose to listen to the strong and powerful words of their good King, or they could listen to Satan. Adam and Eve were very confused... was God good? Did He want their best? What would it be like to rule over themselves? And so they took the fruit...

What an incredibly sad day... Their relationship with their good King had been broken. Adam and Eve blamed each other and grew distant. Because of their sin, all of creation began to unravel... sickness... sadness... pain... death. The world that had been right and good was now broken and terribly wrong.

Disease, hunger, violence, pain, arguments, war, fear, hate... it's not right.

But on this incredibly sad day, God also had good news. God promised that one day, He would send Someone who would come and crush Satan and break his power over God's people.

As we remember Advent, we remember the fulfillment of that promise.  A light shines into the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, and will not overcome it. There is peace again between God's people. And our relationship with our good King has been restored.

But even in the midst of these promises that have already been fulfilled. We know that there's still more to come.

One day, all of creation will be made right again. There will be no more sickness, no more sadness, no more pain, no more death. At His second Advent, there will once again be a special place where God dwells among His people... when we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He truly is. God Himself will be our King and will live among us and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

And so even as we live in the midst of the already and await the not yet, we can proclaim that Christ is coming to make everything right... to make all things new... Christ IS overcoming pain and sadness and sickness and death... and we CAN hope, because Christ is coming back to make all things right!

Lord Jesus, I long for the world to be made right. Come, Lord Jesus, in your mercy.


  1. I liked your post a lot. It sounds like you're having some good discussions with your boys. :) I like that they think deeply about things. I too wonder many of those same questions.

    I wonder why did God make us so that we have to struggle to learn? Why does learning to walk mean we have to fall down? Why is it that we learn as much or more from our mistakes than our successes? Are some of the 'not right' things about our world simply because we as a human race are still learning to walk? I suspect that God is not nearly upset about our failures as we are. Like a parent holding a child's hand he knows that the growing process is hard, but has complete confidence that one day we'll 'get it'. That his sadness over our falleness is like a parent trying to comfort a child who lost his balance. Our problem in walking is not thwarting God's ability to take us where we need to go. He knows the way and is patient beyond all measure. And when we get too tired to walk any more, when we lose faith in taking another step, he just picks us up and carries us and we see his miraculous hand at work. But for the most part, God would prefer if we would keep trying to put one foot in front of the other even if it's 'not right' and we fall down.

    I believe that the brokenness of creation is because we haven't yet learned how to be the image bearers of God. We need to discover the good that God put in each and every part of creation, including mosquitoes and malaria. (I had an idea about malaria bearing mosquitoes: maybe the mosquitoes are tiny vaccinators which haven't been given the right vaccine? Maybe it's our job to give the mosquitoes the vaccine(s)? It might be a preferable way to build up immunity than going to the Dr's office.)

    I've been struggling with understanding what is 'right' and I've been comparing and contrasting John the Baptist and Jesus. Each had high praise of the other. Each were prophets. Each were filled with the Holy Spirit from before birth. Each were on a mission to usher in the Kingdom of God. Both preached repentance and changed behavior. Each were killed for their their beliefs, for standing up to the powers of their day. And yet they were so different...

    John the Baptist lived a Nazarite vow. He abstained from anything impure to the point of avoiding eating food raised through injustice. Jesus, on the other hand, went where he was invited and ate what was set in front of him. While John's criticism of hypocrites was backed up by a holy life, Jesus criticism of hypocrites was backed up by a holy God that still wanted to connect with his sinful creation. Christ's righteousness was in his grace, therefore he was a friend of sinners and drunkards.

  2. (I ran out of space before I finished my thoughts.)
    I can make rules for myself that could guide me in living a life that loved my neighbor as myself, but if I think more about the rules than the people for which the rules are made to respect then there will come situations where I am not truly loving my neighbor. I can make the rule that I should not burn fossil fuels because of how it endangers the lives of millions (or billions). But if my neighbor is having a heart attack and the quickest way to the hospital is to drive a fossil burning car and my neighbor dies because I chose a slower non fossil fueled alternative then I didn't really love my neighbor. If I don't love the neighbor who I can see, touch, interact with, then do I really love any of the persons endangered by climate change? Or am I only loving my view of my self?

    The resurrection proves that grace is a deeper kind of justice; a deeper kind of right-eousness. Through grace what was wrong is made right: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the prisoner is set free. Grace picks us up. Sets us on our feet. Brushes the dirt off. Kisses the wound. And sets us on the path again. And again. And again.

    We may be brilliant at logic, philosophy, or theology, but until we see ourselves as others see us, we will probably always come short of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We will probably always think that we know what is right, rather than depending on God to show us the need in our neighbor that we can love.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Maria. I especially resonate with the statement, "Grace picks us up. Sets us on our feet. Brushes the dirt off. Kisses the wound. And sets us on the path again. And Again. And again." It reminds me of the Chesteron quote that Jeff read at the beginning of the service this week: "God is strong enough to exult in monotony." It's hard, in my humanity, to believe that God can delight in picking us up from the same falls over and over and over... and yet He must. It is my hope that I will grow stronger in my ability to exult in monotony.