Summary: A reminder that even though we are not perfect God loves us and has work for us to do.
October 14, 2001
Are we living in the End Times? Is the final battle between God and Satan spoken of in the book of Revelation about to begin? That question is on the minds of many Christians. Was the fiery end of the twin towers and the death of so many thousands just the beginning of the end? Is our bombardment of sites in Afghanistan the trigger that will detonate World War III and the end of civilization as we know it?
I’m an optimist, most of the time. I don’t want to believe that God has given up on humanity. I keep hoping that, given enough time, we will move beyond our petty selfishness and take on more Christ-like attitudes and lifestyles. I like movies and novels that give us hope that the future will be better.
There is a line in one of my favorite movies that reflects how I feel about the possibility of an imminent Armageddon. (Armageddon is that biblical description of the final great outpouring of God’s judgmental wrath on the earth. It’s found in Revelation 16.) The movie is Contact, and the subject is whether there is life out there in the vastness of space. The line is spoken by several different characters in several different places in the movie: “If it is just us – seems like an awful waste of space.”
I agree completely, and I have very similar feelings about time and history. We have come a long way since the caves. As humans we have accomplished so much and learned so many wonderful things. But we have so much yet to learn, and so much to experience. It would be a sad waste of the future if the Lord were to put an end to it. Sad because I am an optimist, I believe we can have a better world, and I believe we can be a better people, given enough time.
But, maybe I’m just fooling myself. I know that there are times when I refuse to hear or see the truth. On the morning the twin towers were hit, one of our members came by the church. I knew the towers had been hit, I heard that on the way to church, but I had not been watching the television, and when he told me the towers had collapsed I refused to believe it, even when he told me he had just witnessed it on television. My mind just wouldn’t accept it, even though I completely trust him to tell me the truth. Maybe I’m refusing to hear the truth about our condition as human beings. Maybe it is time for God to put an end to this.
In the early days of Christianity there was a movement we know as Gnosticism. Those who bought into Gnosticism believed that knowledge was the key to salvation, and that it was possible through wisdom to become like God. All one has to do is look around to confirm that education doesn’t automatically improve our humanity.
Karl Marx was educated but inhumane, as was Stalin and now is Osama bin Laden. I’m educated, but I still have a mean streak that my love for God keeps squashed, most of the time. Maybe our moral condition hasn’t improved at all since those cave days, maybe we have just become more sophisticated at hurting each other.
The orthodox Christian viewpoint is both pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. Pessimistic in that it recognizes our basic sinfulness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Paul wrote in Romans 3:23. Pessimistic in that the Christian understands that it’s literally impossible to keep God’s commandments, to be perfect as God is perfect, even though our Lord told us that’s what we should be. Pessimistic in that we understand that sin is killing us and there is not a thing we personally can do about it, we cannot save ourselves.
A lot of modern Americans don’t want to have anything to do with that pessimistic attitude. Many of our neighbors don’t want to hear about sin, they just want to think about God’s love. And many of them have made up their minds that God is so loving that he will overlook their little sins. They are fooling themselves into hell.
If you believe that you are basically good, your sins just little sins, and that God is so compassionate that he will make an exception for you, then you are in the wrong faith. Islam would be better for you. It has great appeal to anyone who stubbornly clings to the belief that “being good” will earn eternal life. Islam is based on works to save, but it’s dead wrong.
I can be the best father and pastor any of you have ever known, but if I have even one speeding ticket I’m going to pay the state. If sins were speeding tickets I would have my name carved over a cell at the Tarrant County Jail. When we break the law and get caught, we pay.