Month: December 2015
What is the story you are living? That is the question we started with when we began this trek through the characters, the plot, and the setting of our story. Sadly – outside of the conclusions that the characters are random, the plot is unintelligible, and the setting is over sized and wild – we are left with more questions than we started with. Our goal was to understand our story and its author. Our analytical skills have failed. Either there is no story and no author thus proving Macbeth to be correct, or we need help.
But wait. What if someone has already given us the answer to our story and the secret of its author? What if someone has provided us a story that answers all the questions our investigation uncovered? Would not that be wonderful? Perhaps all those questions about our purpose would be answerable. Is it too much to ask?
But where would such answers come from? Who could understand the story you are living, the characters, the setting, and the plot. Yes, that’s right. Only the author would know. Only the author could know. So how would the author reveal this? Wouldn’t the author have to enter our story itself in order to provide us the answers we so crave? What if the reason we have not found the author is that the author has been in the story and part of the story all along?
Let us, for a moment, assume that is true. The author has been in the story all along. What stories have you been told where the author and creator of the universe, the giver of life has entered into the human story? Is not that the story that Christianity tells? Does not Jesus – who claims to be God himself – enter the human story as a baby, live a life of purity, teach of freedom and redemption, die at the hands of ruling elite, return to life and heaven, and create a way people to have an intimate, personal relationship with the God of the universe? Yes, it does! But does the Christian version really provide the answers to the questions we have been asking?
Remember we first looked at the characters and were left confused. We don’t even know who the hero or the villain is. More than that, we still don’t know what part we might actually be playing in our own story. However, if true, the story Christianity advocates does in fact provide these answers. The hero is none other than God himself, the author. God who entered the story in the human form of Jesus Christ. Who came to crush the villain and set the captives free. And the villain? The Christian story tells of the arch-enemy of God called Satan. Satan, who at one time was the highest ranking and most beautiful of all angels. Satan, who thought himself to be equal to God. The same Satan who was cast out of heaven and has spent the entire story of humanity trying to keep us from being reconciled to God. And what about us? What does the Christian story tell us about our place in the story? According to Christianity, we are the captives that Jesus came to set free. We are Jesus’ beloved. Does it get any better than that?Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the Christian story was in fact true? Don’t you want it to be?
But then there is the plot. The story of Christianity tells of an all-powerful God who seems to have trouble subduing the enemy Satan. A God who has trouble getting his creation to acknowledge him, much less worship him. But we leave that discussion for later. What we do find in the Christian story as told in the Bible is a very familiar plot. In fact, the story begins with a familiar “Once upon a time …”, or more specifically “In the beginning …” And what follows is also familiar. The story begins with everything being good, even great. For the story begins literally in the Garden of Eden. Then, as in all good stories, tragedy strikes. Humans, enticed by the evil one Satan, defy and betray God himself. But God does not simply wash his hands of these traitors, God loves them and woos them back. He himself becomes one of them and pays the price for the treason they committed in order to make way for a reunion. And, according to Christianity, that’s where we are in the story today. God is wooing and Satan is working to conceal the path made for humans to return to their God. Essentially, we are in a life and death struggle set in the middle of a love story. While this Christian story explains much of what we experience, it also has an ending. A happily ever after that is too good to be true. Or is it?
This brings us to the question we raised above. Why would an all-powerful God not just make us love him? Why doesn’t he just obliterate Satan? Why did he ever create him in the first place? Why is there evil? Without convincing answers to these questions, the Christian story becomes just that, a story. Some would say, nonsensical gibberish. But here again, Christianity does have an answer, and the answer is “love”. As Philip Yancey tells us in Disappointment with God
Power can do everything but the most important thing: it cannot control love… In a concentration camp, the guards possess almost unlimited power. By applying force, they can make you renounce your God, curse your family, work without pay, eat human excrement, kill and then bury your closest friend or even your own mother. All this is within their power. Only one thing is not: they cannot force you to love them.
Thus, Christianity tells us that evil exists to give us a choice. A choice to love God or to turn our backs as we did in the garden. Thus the conflict we see in our own story – good versus evil – is the mechanism required to give us our choice. Ours not because we deserve it or because we demand it. It is ours as a gift. The gift from God who loves us so much he gave us that choice.
And then there is the setting – wildly dangerous and grotesquely oversized. According to Christianity, it simply reflects the author. The earth reflects the beauty inherent in the author as well as the author’s more wild and dangerous side. And the universe? Scientists tell us that if the universe was simply intended to hold the earth and all its inhabitants, it is way too big. The Christian story would agree. According to the story, it was designed not only as a home to humanity, but to reflect God himself. If so, then it is probably just about the right size.
If you accept the Christian story, you have found the author. The author is God. The God as revealed in the Bible, in nature, in the conflict between good and evil. If you accept the story, you are left with a choice. A choice to love God or to ignore him and continue on with a seemingly random and unsatisfying life. It’s that simple. As the author, God has written a story to draw you to him. That is why you are reading this text. That is why you have those original questions that so deeply haunt.