Friday, August 8, 2008

Sinister or loving?

There are two ways to look at this universe we're stuck in. One is to see it as vastly sinister, mocking our desires. The other is to see it as exploding with love, inviting our trust. If the first is true, we should rage at everything, especially the (apparently) positive things. If the second is true, we can never despair, no matter what happens.

In her book The Death of Adam, page 78, Marilynne Robinson sees the first outlook in the cynicism of our times:

"When a good man or woman stumbles, we say, 'I knew it all along,' and when a bad one has a gracious moment, we sneer at the hypocrisy. It is as if there is nothing to mourn or admire, only a hidden narrative now and then apparent through the false, surface narrative. And the hidden narrative, because it is ugly and sinister, is therefore true."

The apostle John opens up another total outlook. As a kid in the 50s, I memorized it in the King James Version, and it will forever be imprinted in my psyche with these words:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Select, double-click, and what comes up on the screen?

For God -- the ultimate explanation

so loved -- the open secret of history and our lives

the world -- a wretched evil, defiling every one of us

that he gave -- the unthinkable sacrifice

his only begotten Son -- the unique, pure, worthy One

that whosoever -- startling openness to all

believeth -- no more will be required later

in him -- a new focus for our lives

should not perish -- the destruction we deserve

but -- a surprising reversal

have -- personal possession on terms of grace

everlasting life -- a deluge of joy forever.

The gospel is a clear alternative to the acids of cynicism corroding our world. And the gospel, because it is true, will write the final chapter of our lives.