There’s an argument going on. Sometimes you have to listen closely, but it’s rumbling beneath the polite noise of our sophisticated society like the background radiation of the Big Bang, filling every black hole as it sweeps across an infinite universe.
“We’re here of no special design, for no particular reason, with no meaning beyond the moment; we have no purpose,” they say.
There is no “where” to which we are going. No aim. No “telos.” No direction. We just happened. The best possible mistake, maybe, that random mutation which is conscious of itself and can experience love and even, sometimes, willingly sacrifice itself for another, but a fortunate accident, nonetheless – perhaps we are the most spectacular blunder of all the time there has ever been. There was nothing before; there will be nothing after. We’re just biding this brief intermission between nothing and nowhere, between never and no one, between didn’t-matter-then and still-won’t-when, ever it all comes crashing down. That’s what they say.
And you wonder why teenage suicide is at an all-time high, and adult phobias and anxieties and depressions cry increasingly for medication and the self-help of substance abuse?
The other side, which sometimes raises the argument to a deafening roar, is equally inane. “There is a great being in the sky,” they say… a divine man, with superhuman characteristics: all-knowing and all-good and all-powerful at the same time, with no contradictions between, who controls all things – when you live and when you die, how and why. He controls car crashes and saves a beautiful few, while letting masses of children die in squalid poverty every day. There is reason and meaning and purpose – we can’t know it, of course, because we’re just human. And He’s God. Don’t ask. Just believe. This is all the purpose we need.
And you wonder why we’re still fighting tribal battles in the name of religion, but killing with precision of technology and the capriciousness of science these days, instead of with clubs and stones?
Into that foolish argument, which is timelessly modern, walks a simple man, announced by some of the greatest poetry the world has ever known: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God …(John 1.1). The poetry is inspiring, but it makes you ask: Word? God? What? Where? How?
And the word became flesh… (John 1.14). Jesus shows us – all the God we will ever need – not because he believed it, but because he lived it. And in this ancient word of poetic truth and beautiful goodness, which Jesus spoke anew in his day – and which begs to be heard anew in our day – could there be more purpose? The ancient prophecy offers purpose for the living of our days, and yet it reaches beyond, with a vision that claims us even while it exceeds us – the prophecy is mundane and eternal (which is actually the reason for and the power of the prophetic word, rightly understood). If it could be heard over the din of this yawning argument, this Word offers the power to heal that rift, and all others. Jesus knew his purpose:
bringing good news to the oppressed,
binding up the broken-hearted,
proclaiming liberty (freedom) to those who are (physically, emotionally, spiritually) captive
proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor,
(which meant freeing people of the burden of actual, financial debt that keeps some people subservient others)
proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God;
(not wrath, but what is right: where there is no justice there is no peace)
comforting, comforting all who mourn!
If you believe in poetry, and beauty, truth and goodness, if you’ve ever been awe-struck for even a moment, been touched by even the faintest hint of transcendence, mystery. If you’ve ever questioned, even whimsically, about life’s purpose, and yours… then, The spirit of God may also be upon you… because most people don’t get poetry and too many can’t see beauty; most don’t know truth and too many haven’t experienced goodness – and too many who do, harden these hints of purpose into the cold confines of religious dogma, which always threatens to imprison the Spirit.
I’m not sure our sophisticated, technologically-savvy, brilliantly-modern, and still tribally-backward world could need anything more today than it needs Jesus.
There is Purpose. May it be so – for you – today!