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The Greatest Gift


I've never met a person who confirms to me that the world is the way it should be. Whether we are vexed by macro issues like climate change and geo-politics, or micro issues like not being able to lose that last five pounds or running out of peanut butter, we can all think of ways in which the world could be better.

Christians and secularists give two very different answers as to why the world is not as it should be. Secularists view the distortions in our lives as the inevitable result of chaos. Consistent with the perspective that we are the result of MATTER + TIME + CHANCE = UNIVERSE, there is no underlying purpose or causality; chaos is the order of the day. And in a chaotic world, the word should is simply a preferential statement: we would prefer things to be different, but that they are not is unsurprising.

Christians, however, see the pain, sufffering, and distortions of human life quite differently. We believe fundamentally that things should not be this way, that the created order, including human life, was meant for a better alternative. The distortions appeared when humans rejected God as Lord and King, went their own way, and unleashed sin and its consequences into God's good creation. This is the biblical account.

Our difficulty in appreciating the significance in the change brought through human sin lies in the fact that this is the only reality we have ever known. Living with sin and its consequences is the new normal that's been around for a very long time. We simply cannot imagine a world without pain, suffering, death, disease, greed, and problems. That's why we tend to think of 'shoulds' in terms of tweak our broken system rather than a completely re-designed creation.

The Bible's conclusion points us to the final destination of the created order: a new heaven and a new earth ('Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea (Revelation 21:1). But this does not mean that we have to wait until the end to experience God's goodness. There are three ways humans can experience God's goodness even in the midst of a broken world. 

First, God is benevolent to all his creation, even in its futile state of subjection to sin. This is what theologians call common grace. In the words of Jesus, 'He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). So even secularists who do not believe in God benefit from God's goodness. Even in our rebellion, God continues to bless and sustain his creation.

Second, we experience the goodnewss of God through his direct interventions in our lives. God is both good and generous, and he steps into what seems to be an othewise chaotic life to bring blessing and provision to his people. In the words of James: 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Third, God has given us the greatest gift: Jesus. The Son of God, Jesus - the second Person of the Trinity, is God's best answer to the human dilemma. Ultimately, God restores order, destroys the chaos, and rights every wrong in the new creation at the end of this age. But we participate in that new creation, and in the eternal life of sharing in the Trinitarian fellowship, through Christ. This is summarised exquisitely in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God's greatest gift is Jesus, through who we pass from death to life, from judgment to forgiveness, from bondage to freedom. In our limited, sinful, finite human reasoning, Jesus may not strike us as the best heaven could do. But He is: in Christ, God has given us his best. And it is in Christ that we can experience the best heaven offers.