The Tension of Two Worlds

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
-Fredrick Buechner

The current events that have been flooding my news feeds have been like a landslide of grief. I’ve felt as though the pile-on of sorrow, wickedness, and hypocrisy have been so persistent I can’t breathe. I’ve been struggling with what to write next, how to communicate the urgency I feel with each piece of news and each response I’ve read that seems misleading or pandering.

And this morning, while standing in line at a coffee shop a woman asked me what the text in my tattoo said, and as I told her it was as if the words suddenly breathed new life,

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Take courage, I have overcome the world.

It is precisely the reason I inked my skin so drastically, this reminder that in the bowels of darkness there is a light that shines without dimming, that the nails in his hands were in fact the nails that sealed the coffin for sin and death.

We Christians carry a weighty calling, to hold the tension between this world and the next. Balancing between action against wickedness while still resting in the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of the cross. 

And we so easily forget that we cannot change the world, Jesus already did the work that will ultimately change the world, and God uses us in small ways by the power of his Spirit.

The only place we can begin in the face of the crushing devastating world that presents itself to us and within us is to be obedient. By submitting to Christ, resting in his grace, we obey, and thus his grace expresses itself in our obedience in our personal lives which then extends to the words we speak and the actions we take within the world we inhabit.

We cannot eradicate evil, but we seek to expose it so as to lead both the oppressed and the oppressors to the gospel. We must identify the wretchedness within ourselves and in the world at large so that the sweetness of grace can be understood.

We cannot eradicate evil, but we seek to restrain it so as to give a glimpse of the love and justice of our God. That we might communicate with our words, our actions, our resources and our voting power, that God cares for those society deems invaluable, that God cares about justice, and that God loves people far too much to allow them to stay where they are in the shackles of sin.

When we expect to fix the world by our rhetoric or by our ability to love or our actions we leave no space for the Holy Spirit and we tend to defeat our own efforts before we even begin. Our response to sin, to tragedy, to horror, and suffering must all begin in the same place. We must always begin with the cross, we must always begin with a submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and we must always begin with an attitude of obedience that says, “whatever you ask of me, Lord, I will do”.

Human nature is bent toward wickedness, we seek to split the hairs of humanity to justify ourselves, to place blame on the other rather than facing the horrors that exist in our own heart, the world’s rhetoric is that my sin is justified because of
Their color
Their age
Their imperfect bodies or minds
Their gender
The boarders of their home
Their intellect
That their sin is not like my own
In our sin we seek to dehumanize the other in order to distract ourselves from the dehumanizing action that sin is doing in our own hearts.

But God’s rhetoric flips the notions of the world, he says that value is inherent in being human, regardless of physical and social characteristics.That no sin is excusable, that every infraction deserves his holy wrath, but by the blood of Jesus, the repentant are forgiven and justified by the perfection he gives us, and as those that are washed in his bloody sacrifice we are responsible to act righteously and to bring the news of who he is in every word we breathe, with every cent to our name, and by every action of our hands.

So, we weep and we rejoice.
We repent and we forgive
We fight injustice and we offer grace
We speak and we love
We admonish and we comfort
We rescue and we challenge
We forgo our “rights” and we lift up the oppressed
We act and we wait, because our merciful God promises he will return, and he demands that we do not waste the time he has given us.

2 comments

  1. Amen to this post! Such a timely reminder, my goodness, the news in the world is enough to make you despair for all of humankind! It is so important to remember that there is good news too, and that Christ has overcome the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know I certainly needed the reminder. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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