Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chapter 43: Concerning Glory and the "Flowers of War"

One of the most gruesome, graphic, and thought-provoking movies that I have watched in awhile was Flowers of War. Christian Bale plays the role of a man living in Nanjing, China during the Nanjing Massacre. He ends up posing as a priest and reluctantly taking care of a group of girls from the convent, as well as a group of women who come from the red-light district. Death, ignorance, betrayal, and other evils abound.

This is one of those movies like Hotel Rwanda - it's good to watch because it helps me remember that there are awful and evil things going on in the world right now (and since the very beginning). But unlike Hotel Rwanda, this film has stuck in my brain and I've had to wrestle again with one of the great questions: how can He let this incredible evil happen - especially when it seems to do nothing to glorify His name?

I'm still in the midst of that question. A coworker was talking yesterday about how the main theme of the Bible and of history is that it is not about us at all. People are important, yes, but His glory is way more so. And I agree. This I have seen in history, and this is what keeps our prone-to-growing-drastically-out-of-proportion pride in check - that we are not god. We can't know why He does things the way he does.

But when that knowledge and belief is tested . . . uffda. It's rough. It's awful to have to come to grips with the brokenness of the world. It's miserable to realize that people aren't inherently good (something I knew with my head, but not with my heart). And it's painful to see what grief we willingly take upon ourselves by our actions.

But although my heart is laden with the evil of some people, it's nothing to when His whole being was laden with the evil of the world. Once again, I'm amazed and dumbstruck at the gruesome glory of the tree.

And there's the hope in it all. Yep. People are evil. But there will be a day when that evil is swept away and we who believe will be shiny, new, and no longer prone to sin. And it's not for us, but all for him and His glory.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chapter 42: Being an Answer to the World's Question

There is a strange, almost paradoxical meeting of guilt and forgiveness at the cross.

     My guilt is overwhelming. It is so overwhelming that I cannot get out of it. I cannot do
     anything to clear my name. People have forever worked and worked and worked to
     wash away the wrong that they have done, but in the end our work is in vain. We can
     never get rid of the blot of evil.

          In fact - my guilt is such that it put a man on a tree and he died.     He. Died. 

               I am an accomplice in this greatest of murders. My guilt in this is undeniable.

Ironic, then, that the very act that confirms my guilt - solidifying in me a heart of stone - is the very act that absolves it - creating a heart of flesh.

How can it be that my guilt and my forgiveness are both hanging on that tree?
How can it be that my death and my life are there as well?
How can it be that my deepest shame and sorrow, and my greatest hope and joy are due to the selfsame event?

It is only in this paradox that we are free.
     Only when we have soldered the final and greatest link in the chain of our sin is the chain
     broken completely.
     Only when we have acknowledged our evil and then seen its ugliness, do we know the
     pain and joy of guilt and forgiveness. 
     Only when the the woes of the world are cast upon him can he cast them away forever.

The cross is an ugly and beautiful paradox.