Friday, June 7, 2013

Is There a Reason?

So, this is my jam.

I could even be so bold to say I think it is one of the best songs written in my lifetime. I love it. Why? Well, mostly, because it makes me want to preach. Not like, it makes me want to be a preacher - that is not my gifting nor my call. But this song inspires me to want to preach. Think of it like when someone may say, that makes me want to sing (or dance)! That does not mean they want to, or think they should, become a singer or a dancer. Which is good. Those people should probably not become singers or dancers, and in the same way I shouldn't become a preacher. But just like you want to sing in the shower sometimes, I still want to preach sometimes, and may even dabble a bit, if not behind a pulpit, then behind a screen or maybe even around a table and a cup of coffee.

This very well-written, memorable but not annoying, simple but unique, delightful folk song (and video) makes me want to preach because I am very convinced about something that this songwriter seems to question, but still wrestle with, and with that I can identify. But I am so convinced that I am compelled to joyfully shout from the rooftops (or the internet) that there is a glorious reality that doesn't have to be questioned, though it rightfully warrants some wrestling. I say it warrants some wrestling, because I don't expect anyone to come to this realization free from struggle; indeed that struggle perhaps is inevitable.

What am I so convinced of?

First, there is a reason things are this way. Second, the "love that will find a way" is not a concept or an illusion, but it is a person. He has a name. I wonder if you know him?


Is there a reason things are this way? Or is this how they've always been and they intend to stay? Why do we say the things we say, every day? Are we gonna keep on building prisons and fill them all, and keep on building bombs and drop them all? Do we have baskets of lemons that all taste the same, and a window with a pigeon with a broken wing? Do we spend our whole life working for something, only to have it taken away? Is there chaos and commotion wherever we go? Is there a reason we live this way, every day?

I am sure you know my answer, lest you think what inspires me to want to preach is a depressing message of hopelessness. Can you imagine? You get all dressed up, get your whole family ready for church, make the 20 minute drive with children screaming, get all settled in your pew, sing a few songs, and the pastor gets up, looks you in the eye with a smile, and declares, "There is no reason or explanation for the futility and suffering in your life. There is absolutely no answer for the hard questions, and no hope for the beggar outside your door. I can't explain the reason for the way we live every day. If you stub your toe on the way out, don't say I didn't warn you. God bless you and good luck out there. Amen."

No! That is not my answer. My answer is that the pigeon's broken wing is proof that his wing is supposed to not be broken. Think about it. Have you ever thought of life in that way before? What is the big deal about a pigeon who can't fly because of a broken wing? Who cares if we can't walk because of a broken leg? Those are ridiculous questions because it is obvious to us that wings are meant to fly and legs are meant to walk, and those things not happening results in pain, and seems unnatural. God cares about pigeons, you know. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But would it really be obvious that wings are meant to fly and legs to walk if they always worked without any problem? Would we know that pain hurts if we only ever had the lack of pain? How would we know our sin if we never sinned? Or that it was bad? If things weren't this way, how would we know they shouldn't be?

This is not a mind trick (haha). I'm not necessarily arguing that "the reason" things are this way is simply to show us that they shouldn't be. The God of the Universe is more profound (and gracious) than that. I'm trying to convince you that there is, of course, a reason, and the existence of unexplainable, even painful things does not inherently mean there is not a reason for them. Of course there is. Right? We can and should question what the reason is, but good heavens, let us not settle that there isn't one!

Scripture is very helpful on this question, if not specifically to the pigeon or the existence of prisons or bombs or slavery or death, but certainly in general. Let's look at the best chapter in the Bible (Romans 8). Paul says that he considers that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. So, yes, "things are this way". There is suffering. But how tragic to only acknowledge that reality without also acknowledging the equally true reality of glory. That doesn't give us a specific reason for the suffering but it tells us first and foremost alongside the suffering is the true reality of future glory. That alone should give us a lot of comfort. A lot. Like, all we need.

But Paul helps us more. He says that the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Ok, so, still no reason. But! Our only comfort is not the acknowledgement of a coexisting reality with suffering. It is not as if God only says, take heart, I know your broken leg hurts, but know that it is supposed to not hurt. So take heart. You are right that it hurts. But also true is its supposed to feel neutral. Isn't that good news?

No! God desires us to eagerly long for it not to hurt! Not just know it is supposed to not hurt, but eagerly long for it not to! Eager longing does not give us a reason. But it does give us something to do in the meantime, and it certainly further contradicts any possibility that there isn't a reason.

Paul continues: For the creation was subjected to futility. (Duh, we already knew that). Not willingly! This was not our choice. It was not our idea to have our legs be breakable, or worse, for prisons to be necessary, or bombs exist with the sole purpose to destroy. So what's up? Why was the creation subjected to futility? Are we going to get our reason now? Because of him who subjected it. What? Who him? God? Why?

In hope! What hope? That the creation itself would be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Wait a minute.

Am I saying that God subjected the world to bad things for the sole purpose of fixing those bad things? Like, he broke my dishwasher just so he could fix it? Was he bored? Was he trying to show off?

I am getting close to blasphemy here you know. But I'm just putting words in your mouth, so actually you are getting close to blasphemy (see what I did there?). Seriously though, we need to understand the hope that Paul is talking about here. In hope. What hope? That we would be free from bondage, which we didn't choose, and that logically should have never existed if God was just going to free us from it anyway. But guess what? God is God. And we really are in bondage. And God is not to blame for our bondage. Don't go down that road. Please, for the love of God, don't lie to yourself all your life that your sin, and your captivity to things that you wish you didn't do or say, and the evil in the world, is God's fault. We know it isn't. We know! Why else would Jesus come to earth, identify with us in every way, yet not sin? If he wanted to identify with us in every way, he should have sinned also, right? Unless! Unless, God in his grace was saying, "Even though it's your fault, I am going to free you from it. I did not create it, I hate it, and I'm getting rid of it. And the reason it should be clear to you that you alone are to blame for it, and it wasn't some ironic predicament that I created for myself just so I could solve it and be amused, is because of the way I am going to free you. I am going to deliver my only Son, one with my being, over to suffering, death, and separation. For you."

I hate to break it to you, but hope is not a reason. We still, actually, aren't at a reason why things are this way. But where we are is even better. Christian hope means that whatever the reason, we know, without any shadow of a doubt, what the reason isn't. The reason isn't - couldn't! - be that God doesn't love us. He sent his Son to die. It couldn't be that he doesn't love us!


Do you believe? Do you know it will? Yes! And guess what? Love is not elusive. The music video above masterfully sets up the scenario with people living ordinary lives - selfishly is his implication - minding their business unaware of their surroundings or the suffering in the world. Then, in almost creepy fashion, he sets various hurting people in the exact context of these people going about their lives. Below minimum wage workers, wounded soldiers, the homeless, women and children in captivity and hungry; and the face of the hurting people is hopelessness and helplessness, and the face of the ordinary people is conviction.

But where is the love? He says he does believe that love will set us free. He says he knows it will. Yes! He says. But where is it? What is it? What are we to say to the hurting people? To ourselves?

Friends, love is not elusive. Love is God. Yes, God is love, but more than that, love is God. Love is Jesus. This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation of our sins. He made him, Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for our sake. That in him we might become the righteousness of God.

There is a reason things are this way. But we both know and don't know that reason. We know that love will set us free. And we know that love is not a what or a why, but a who. It is Jesus. I wonder, do you know him?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

- 1 Peter 1:3-12

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