Sometimes I think there are two ways of looking at the world. On the one hand, there’s no denying that life is hard. It is impossible to dispute the fact that, actually, this earth is full of quite a lot of crap. Why? Well, it’s full of people, that’s why. And people are pretty crappy.
We see it everywhere. The article about some sicko molesting young girls; the news bulletin concerning violent protests against political oppression that most probably speaks of wrongs on both sides of the issue; the young girl on the school run with two kids under five, no father figure and a black eye; that guy at the office who constantly lies on the phone to clients, and you just know he’s also cheating on his wife.
And not just people. We see it in nature too. As I sit and write this, the headlines of the last few weeks have been filled with scenes of devastation caused by earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.
The problem… Sin. Everything’s just completely out of sync. Creation. Humanity. Everything… We’re fallen, broken, stained, corrupted- marred beyond repair.
Or are we?
See, then there’s the other way of seeing things- the other side of the coin. For just as undeniable as the mindless mess of this marred world is, when one really stops to think about it, the shocking goodness that’s inherently present in this life. Again, this spans across the breadth of both creation and humanity. The startling power and beauty of unspoiled nature, from a sunset to a mountain to a waterfall. The unmistakable inbuilt spark of creativity which every human being possesses- the potential to be inspired, have ideas and make them happen, whether to better some set of circumstances or create simply for creating’s sake. The joy of relationships, the innate love people have for one another. The outcome of the practice of ‘play’, be it kids reveling in imagination or fully grown adults engaging in informal competition, that brings forth the mysterious happiness of, for want of a better word, fun. Laughter. Beauty. Life. All these are here in abundance.
Beauty. Joy. Peace.
Sin. Pain. Distress.
Two sides of one coin, both equally unfathomably true. So what gives? Which one wins? One can’t help but observe in honesty, that more often, than not, it’s the latter.
The sad fact of the matter is that most of the time, all the ‘badness’ of the world we inhabit somehow outranks and overshadows any goodness experienced in the lives we live. Or, if not, we at least focus much more on the downside. We just can’t help it.
But what if there’s a third way? What if there’s a lens through which to view all of life, the world and everything, that truly takes into account both heads and tails, but still provides genuine hope and, moreover, gives chance to honestly experience an ‘explosion of joy’…?
Some of us believe there is. We call it Redemption.
See, if what we read in our Bibles is true, that means we have to honestly accept and affirm both the beauty of creation and humanity as intended and the total depravity and corruption resultant of sin entering the world. But it also means the story, and our thinking, doesn’t end there. If we believe in the resurrection of Christ, and we believe in the outpouring of God’s Spirit to gradually empower and perfect and complete, and we believe in a Kingdom of God which starts out as the smallest of seeds but grows to become the biggest of trees, imminently irrupting this current natural order and the whole way of this weary world until one day it comes in completion; if we believe Jesus’ rising from the dead enables us to move from a realm of darkness to light and be in genuine relationship with God himself… Surely this changes everything.
Our thinking. Our living. The very way we view the world.
This third way of Redemption allows us truly to hold in tension all the good and bad as we ‘practise resurrection’- this way of seeing enacts a way of being that lives out the great Hope we have. It’s as if the coin always lands propped up on it’s side, and along the edge is written a higher truth.
What this means is that we cease to see the world around us simply as it is and appears to be. Not that we don’t acknowledge that, but that the present facts of the current state of play no longer need lead us to a prison of paralysis, as our understanding of Redemption and Resurrection allows us to also dream and envision and see what any given person or place could be.
This is not blind denial of one side of the coin in order to emphasize the other… but rather a holistic, whole-hearted, all-acknowledging recognition of BOTH… and a belief- a hope (both certain and expectant) in a third dimension to this discussion, and indeed, a future fourth.
That’s what enables us to genuinely seek to be an ‘explosion of joy’ in our area abandoned by Empire. If you want to know what that looks like, read on.