Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Alienation…?’ – March 7, 2018
Despite extraordinary advances in science and technology, we are still incapable of making a just and lasting peace for all peoples of all nations. Peace at the best of times is an uncertain affair. It seems the only way we can ensure it, is through more laws, greater security and the loss of more personal freedoms.
Commenting on why he had written The Lord of the Flies, William Golding said: “I believed then, that man was sick — not exceptional man, but average man. I believed that the condition of man was to be a morally diseased creation and that the best job I could do at the time was to trace the connection between his diseased nature and the international mess he gets himself into.”
Alienation is a good word to describe our situation. In his Letter to the Colossians, Paul the Apostle speaks of our hostile, alienating attitude towards God. In Colossians 1:21 we read: And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, as was shown by your evil deeds, …
The evil deeds are the outcomes of the hostility, the enmity within us towards God. They are not the cause of the breakdown of our relationship with God. Our evil deeds spring from our hostile attitude towards God; we might say he is real, but we don’t want him to come too close. And the outcome is that our world consistently demonstrates the tragic results of our attitude to God. Injustice and greed, hatred and conflict, pain and death, mar the harmony and joy that God had intended. ‘Sin’ – our refusal to honor God or give him thanks – not only causes separation between us and God and so with one another, but also means as Paul says Ephesians 2:12, that we live without God in the world – something we see in our culture today.
The question becomes: ‘If there is a God who is all-powerful and good, will he do something about the mess?’
When evil first entered the world creating enmity between us and God, God could have written us off as a failure and started again. But that would have been an admission of failure.
Instead, as the narrative of the Bible unfolds, we learn that God resolved to implement a more costly strategy. Rather than abandoning this evil and ungrateful world, he himself came to the rescue. He needed to adopt a plan to destroy the enmity without destroying us. Only by doing this would a just and lasting peace be possible.
Colossians 1:21-23 provides an insight into God’s strategy: And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, as was shown by your evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, …
God’s strategy was neither political nor military, nor was it educational. Rather he chose a path of self-sacrifice. From the standpoint of God’s perfect righteousness, a just and lasting peace could only be made possible through the voluntary sacrifice of someone who was perfect.
Suppose a family member has profoundly and unjustly hurt us. One day we learn that they are in really serious trouble and we know that we alone have the resources to help them. We could tell them to go to hell – and forget them. But what if within us there was still a love for them? We would need to find a way within ourselves so that we could justly absorb the pain, the hurt, and the anger boiling up within us at the very thought of them, enabling us to reach out and help them.
The extraordinary news is that through the death of the Lord Jesus, who was both truly God and truly man, God provided the perfect means by which he could reconcile us to himself. When Jesus died, God in his love absorbed within himself the just pain and anger we have caused within him. When we bow our proud heads and truly ask Jesus Christ for his forgiveness, God can justly declare us to be at one, to be at peace, with him. Indeed, as FF Bruce (Colossians: 1984) observes, ‘… peace, to be worthy of the name, must be founded on righteousness’ (p.77).
Our response? In her Christmas broadcast in December 2012, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II said: “This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’… The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of God giving himself to us in humble service: “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part”. The carol gives the answer “Yet what I can I give him – give him my heart”.”
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com