Lost the plot?

Russell Minick Biblical Story Leave a Comment

Where was I? Ah, stories. Good bits, bad bits… what bits matter more than others, and why? I seem to have lost the plot this week. Wednesday was to be about redemption, Thursday about transformation, Friday about completion. But I was distracted. Life just kept coming in bits, not in a plot. I need to refocus. But where?

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

One of the things I listened to was a genial debate about morality with or without God:

 Peter Singer, controversial atheist philosopher and one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”, discusses the implications of atheism and theism for morality with John Hare, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale

Both Singer (atheistic animal rights advocate) and Hare (Christian academic) believed people should be nice, but they disagreed on why. For Singer it was a matter of being constructively obedient to our variety of randomly evolved instincts. For Hare it came down to Jesus as the focal point of history and humanity. Singer said Jesus was ok, but a little weird. Examples? Why did he have to send the demons into the pigs and then have the pigs die? Why did he curse the fig tree? In other words, Jesus lacked ethical superiority because he was oddly harsh with nature on more than one occasion; and he just didn’t make much sense to Singer. Ultimately Singer’s position came down to the problem of apparently pointless suffering made belief in the Christian God untenable. Hare, on the other hand, pointed to Jesus as God enduring suffering and offering hope.

So which is the story? We of course suffer, and we of course get confused at why God does this or that and doesn’t do that or this. The context for Hebrews 12:3 is after an acknowledgement of the problem: some followers have victories, others have long messy sad lives that end badly. What’s up with that?

The answer is only partially given (better resurrection on the way, hang in there). The practical admonition is to weigh up Jesus.

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Something about his resoluteness of conviction that the fog of life, as experienced in hostility from people, was not comparable to his vision of what lies beyond is the key. He saw something worth living for and worth dying for. The hope for life is not in being clever enough to manage this life so that it is safe and cheerful; it may be or may not be. The hope for life is that it is lived with a settled focus of confidence in future goodness triumphing thoroughly. I must not lose the plot. Good, in a world of not good, is still the future hope. Be dedicated to good in its small bits, but always connect that good to the GOOD. Somehow that kind of persevering faith is what God requires. Clarity and ease are not promised, only a general direction defined by the particulars of Jesus and his courage.

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