If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. -- 1 Corinthians 15:19
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Christianity has a lot to offer people as a lifestyle. It is potentially healthy, positive, and meaningful, providing peace and answers to difficult questions, comfort and strength in loss and adversity. Christianity, especially when viewed at a somewhat superficial, exoteric level ought to be true. Does it matter if it is true? Some people seem to have concluded that it does not. Some seem to think that being a Christian means the same as being a good person.
Christianity didn’t necessarily teach righteousness to the West, but it did show us why we had defined goodness the way that we did. In Christ, we saw why righteousness was right and that goodness had its foundation not in the shifting sands of earth but in the rock-solid truth of heaven. From a worldly perspective, the Church is built upside down.
The world says that what is good is what is good for us. As long as we understood that the perfection for which we were aiming was not attainable in this life, even if people couldn’t quite bring themselves into the Christian fold, they didn’t get too far off base. There was at least an implicit understanding that something was eternal and absolute, and the best way of living was to approximate that absolute within the cultural confines where we found ourselves.
More and more, in the last couple of centuries, we have strayed further from that understanding until we are trying to base all of our behavior on what we like and what we think is good for us. This leads many to reject any ideas of struggle. We are “born” a certain way, and that is the way we are, and we and other people should just accept it. When we do find a non-individual standard for behavior, it comes down to “tolerance” and “the greater good”. Thus we are convinced to give up our freedoms, our property, our privacy, our morals and convictions so that “humanity” or “the country” or “people around the world” can benefit.
Like the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Daniel 2:31-46), our golden-headed god stands precariously on feet cast of an unstable mixture of iron and clay. Our thoughts, plans, dreams, and intentions are beautiful, bright and highly valued, but we have based our hopes on both the strength and frailties of human nature. Iron is not easily broken itself and it has great utility, if not always beauty. Nevertheless, it is prone to corrosion and corruption. Clay speaks of pliability and suggestibility that hardens into something that will hold its shape until it is subjected to stress whereupon it fractures and shatters. Combined, these materials form a pragmatic but extremely fragile pedestal on which to attempt to raise a civilization.
If, when this life ends, we end, Christianity is a lie and a delusion. There is no truth, and we find that all our self-denial and self-sacrifice has been offered to the service of yet another version of the same idol that Daniel described -- attractive and inspiring in theory, but, in reality, doomed to conflict, confusion, degradation and destruction.
Here is where we must decide the road we will walk. We can choose to follow the visible or the invisible, the eternal or the temporal, truth or lie. If the truth is a lie as well, we are lost without hope.
The truth is true. Christ is risen. Jesus is alive, and we are raised with Him and in Him. Our faith assures us that our hope is well-placed and proves the unseen Absolute is no false image.
Life here is the terminal -- that place from which we depart. No one wants to live in the terminal. We understand it is where we go to get where we are going. Our journey through this earthly existence is only the beginning, the strait, narrow path that leads us to a new country and a new, everlasting life.