Monday March 16, 2009
For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17.
The claims of this text are ultimate and necessary for faith. That the world as we know it was self-created by accident does not make common sense to the common man. That’s why nearly half of Americans continue to believe “Charles Darwin was wrong where it mattered most.” (National Geographic, Nov. 2004, p. 6.) Whatever the merits or demerits of evolution, this text maintains that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God was before all of it. And in the final analysis, if life is an accident, then life has no real meaning beyond daily mechanical animal survival.
The problems of life conceived by accident are many. Where did ethics come from? An innate knowledge of right and wrong is common only to humans; animals, beyond training, do not have it. Of greater mystery is why humans even conceptualize the idea of God; animals don’t. The search for God in some form is what most of history is about and the desire for spirituality of some sort is still alive and well in the new millennium—even in the “secular” west. Paul’s claims of the eternal nature of God, and his handiwork in creating and sustaining the universe, make the most sense to most people, even if they consider it irrelevant to life.
But what we believe has consequences. The knowledge of right and wrong and a God who in the ultimate sense created us implies accountability for the life he gave us and freedom to live as we please. That is what makes God and death so frightening. The idea that there is no existence beyond the grave is a hope concocted to allay our fears, for our fear is that there might be!
But there is a further consequence. If, as I believe, Paul’s claims are true, then there is relief for our fears when we put our faith in that same God as our only and final hope. The God who might condemn is also the one who has the power and right to forgive. And Paul’s claim that Jesus Christ is the one who holds ultimate power means that no-one can gainsay or interfere with his desire to reconcile us to himself through his death: the sacrifice of God himself for us.
This belief in turn has a consequence for the way we live. Christ’s power to create and sustain means that his power to sustain individuals like us is also ultimate. Once we accept his claims and place ourselves in God’s mercy, nothing in life can harm us. As I face surgery in two week’s time, I can rest secure in the knowledge that he has ultimate control over my life—whatever the outcome. That gives my life ultimate meaning. I am not simply subject to the whims of an accidental universe.