As we were heading out the door this morning Lily was telling me all about the new book she's been reading. And God love my Lily-bug, she tells stories like her mother. No detail is left out, no character is unmentioned--often I have to encourage her (in a loving, patient, dad of the year kind of way) to find the point. Don't judge me. So as she was telling me about one of the characters, Emma asked, "Is he good or bad?"
I was struck by the simplicity of her question. To her 5 year old mind there was a simple classification for this character: either he was good or he was bad. That's the way the mind of a child works, isn't it? There are good people and there are bad people. There is right and there is wrong. There is black and there is white.
I thought further about how as adults we are eager to outgrow such simplistic thinking. We pride ourselves on being able to identify moral gray areas. We pat ourselves on the back for our tolerance and our intellectual evolution. Others may view the world through so narrow a lens but we are able to look beyond that. We are able to see that "absolute truth" is a misnomer.
But lost in our self-congratulatory euphoria (which might be my new favorite phrase) is the fact that there are things as simple as right and wrong. There are things as concrete as good and bad. There is, as the photo suggests, a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. And maybe what the world needs is more child-like view of things. Please don't misunderstand: I'm not anti-intellectual and I'm not suggesting we all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" around the campfire. But I am suggesting that sometimes we can overlook the obvious-that there is right and that there is wrong. That there is truth and that there is falsehood. There are moral dilemmas in the world. There are difficult decisions to be made. But there are also things that are true; not "sort of in a round about way" kind of true but "absolutely and without question or equivocation" kind of true. Jesus said in John 8:32, "...you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." According to Jesus, not only is truth a reality, truth is knowable. We can know truth. And as I thought about what Emma said, her simple understanding that there are things that are right/true and things that are wrong/untrue, I though about some of those things, some of that truth that we can know.
We know, for example that God is. Throw away all your smart sounding arguments and bid words. Throw out your philosophers and people who tell you what to believe. Now go and stand out in a dark place on a clear night. Look upward at the blanket of stars. Look at the innumerable lights in the night sky. Can you really conceive of such things just happening into existence? We know God exists because He has revealed His existence to the world. The heavens declare the glory of the One who spoke them into existence. Every cell, every strand of DNA shouts to the creative brilliance of our King. Every star that shines is a light that points us to the throne of the Master of this world. We know that God exists and we can hold to that with unshakable certainty.
We know that God is holy. His word declares to us His holiness, the perfection of His character. In addition to the testimony of His word we all have within us a desire for what's right, don't we? We are grieved when injustice is allowed to flourish, we desire to see the guilty punished and the innocent vindicated. That desire is there because we were made in the image of a holy God, a God who loves justice and righteousness. That desire that resides within our fallen flesh reminds us that God is holy.
We know that we are not holy. You don't have to be a theologian to understand this. We can argue about degrees of sinfulness but the bottom line is that we are all unholy; we are all guilty of sin. None of us can match the standard of Our creator. The answer to Emma's question about whether or not a character was good or bad is ultimately, "He's bad." And that's true for each of us. We are sinful people; sinful by birth and sinful by choice. This is truth. This is beyond debate.
We know that Jesus saves sinners. Now this is good news, isn't it? We know that Jesus Christ saves sinners. He came to this earth for that purpose. Luke 19:10 tells us that the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost. Jesus came to the earth to save sinners. His life was the life I couldn't live. His death was the death I should have died. And His resurrection was the proof of the truth of His words. Through faith we can be forgiven. Though we didn't live a perfect life, the perfect life of Jesus can be imputed to us. Though we didn't die for our sins, the death that Jesus died was a substitutionary death--He took our punishment in our place. And since He rose again, we who are dead in our sins can be raised to walk in newness of life.
We know that Jesus will return. The past, as they say, is prologue. That means that what has happened before is a pretty good indicator of what will happen next. God promised a Redeemer would come to save the world; and He did. That redeemer promised that He'll return; and He will. If all the prophecies of the Old Testament were proven true, if everything in the New Testament has been verified, why would we doubt that this same Jesus will return?
Jesus said that we will know the truth, and that knowledge of the truth will set us free. I encourage you to take hold of the truth; and as you do, experience the freedom it offers. Freedom from worry, freedom from guilt, freedom from anxiety or fear. The truth is that we have a God who loves us and has given Himself for us. We have a God who has promised to return for us. And we have a God who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
Father, thank You for Your truth. Thank You that You love us, that You saved us, and that You'll return for us. Thank You that in a world of confusion and chaos, we can hold to what Your word tells us. We can hold to Your truth. Give us a childlike acceptance of what Your word says. Help us to see the world as You do-through the lens of right and wrong. But even more, help us to love the world as You do. Help us to share the good news with them. And use our lives to glorify Yourself. Amen.