Man (Part 3)
Chapter 10 — The Celebration of Life
At the beginning of our journey we set out in pursuit of life. We resolved to take it by storm. That is the parable of human nature itself. Everyone is in search of life. Hopefully, our journey made us realize that we could not find life. It lay beyond, above us like a dark mystery Between it and us was a frightful abyss we could not cross. The truth then came to us — we did not come to it. Life had really come in pursuit of us and used our foolish dreams to draw us to Itself. For Life is Christ, and Christ is our Life (Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:4). Life found us and, because Life is love, gave Itself to us until It had nothing more to give. "Son," Life said, "take Me and live." Life came to us not by our own noble exploits nor by our irreverently snatching It. It came as a Gift to be taken freely or not at all. And because It is a Gift, It calls us to the spirit of grateful celebration.
To the men who wrote the Old Testament, life was not something to be endured but to be celebrated. Life was a great boon. To live was to live in praise and celebration of what God had done (Isaiah 38:18,19). Those who did not participate in this celebration could be counted as dead even while they lived. But this Old Testament celebration was not the celebration of religious mystics who think worship means to be lifted out of the body and the evil, smelly world to become pure spirit, a vapor which vanishes into nothingness. No! No! The men of the Old Testament may have had their faith in heaven, but they had their feet on earth. Their celebration was celebration in and with the community. They knew that no man could be whole while alone. They did not look upon this earth as "worldly" as many religious people do today. Life was to be celebrated with eating, drinking, marrying (Proverbs 5:18; Song of Solomon), rearing children, planting vineyards and eating their fruit, with toiling and rejoicing to see the light of the sun. They could see that the whole order had been disrupted by this foreign thing called sin. They knew that the earth sometimes bleeds in pain. But they had a faith founded on the conviction that God had acted, God was acting, and God would act in the fullness of time to make all things new (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).
God did not disappoint their faith. "When the time had fully come" (Galatians 4:4), God acted in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself (Romans 5:10), to remove every barrier that would prevent Him from. pouring His love upon the world so that men might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). Christ has become the watershed of history Every time men write the date they unconsciously acknowledge that time is measured in reference to Him. History is now His story, a story which judges every man. What God has done in giving us His Son is so great that the old songs of celebration will never do. "And they sang a new song." "Let us rejoice and be glad" (Revelation 5:9; 19:7). God's secret is out. The tomb is empty Christ is risen from the dead, having taken away the sting of death. Victory has already taken place. The future is a foregone conclusion.
The gospel is an invitation to a great party There is no other like this, for God has prepared it Himself. The pleasure is His. The surprise is ours. This party is not a dinner where only the great and the beautiful gather while the rest watch in envy Having lavished His table with the accumulated love of eternity, He Himself, in His gospel, appeals for men to come. He delights in calling those who are least deserving, those who know they can never repay what He has done. The Almighty Creator wants to celebrate with poor; lost men and women, those who realize they are undeserving. If some are too proud to eat with "tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 9:11), God is not too proud—or too holy God is no snob. While many "good" people think that being good leads to fellowship with God, He turns them upside down by showing that fellowship leads to goodness. He meets sinners where they are. The All-Holy comes. to fellowship with the unholy Divine love always breaks through our petty notions of what God ought to do. He will not be the God of the status quo. He insists on doing the surprising, undreamed-of thing. Divine love offers acceptance to men just as they are. But if they accept it they cannot remain just as they are. Overwhelmed by divine love, they will be reconciled to the life God has planned for them.
As we remember what God has done and what has been given us, life becomes a celebration. Living by faith is not preoccupation with ourselves or exploring our psyche. It is forgetting ourselves and celebrating.
Faith is the attitude of celebration. It is not dreaming that the world is all lovely It isn't. Rather; it is to live in the conviction that this universe will ultimately prove both just and friendly Of course, we now see the cruel inequities and injustices of life. Cheats often prosper and crooked men reach the top. Truth is forever on the scaffold and error ever on the throne. Yet we know with the poet that that "scaffold sways the future." Justice will be done. Faith sees that the universe is also friendly It is for us because "God is for us" (Romans 8:31). This is not to deny that the universe can present a savage face. Volcanoes bury a village, and terrorism and torture reveal man's inhumanity to man. But faith looks beyond and says, "Since God is there, the universe will prove friendly in the end."
This faith shares in the faith of Him who came to this earth and was met by failure at every turn. There was no room for Him in the inn, no room for Him in His own country though only a babe, no room for Him in the hearts of His own people. The Lord of glory was He, but He trod this world unrecognized, un-honored, with nowhere to lay His head. "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him." "He was despised and rejected by men" (John 1:11; Isaiah 53:3). But He would not fail nor be discouraged. He put His faith in God and pressed on alone. The storm grew black around Him. Men returned Him evil for good. His friends forsook Him. One betrayed Him. Another denied Him. He was spat on, mocked and derided. Even God seemed to forsake Him. His death appeared the greatest failure and disaster any man had ever faced — until God showed His side of the story Faith, therefore, is only possible because it is sustained by His. If we keep the faith, our lives will also be a glorious triumph, not seen to be such here, but seen to be such when God lets us see His side of the story
The cross stands as the immovable landmark of all history, inspiring us to believe that the universe is both just and friendly If it were only just, it would destroy us. For we deserve death. If it were only friendly and indifferent to good and bad, it would be a monstrous place to live. But Calvary declares that God will see justice done. The rule of His law shall prevail. And Calvary also declares that the Sovereign of the universe is friendly He is even friendly enough to sorrowfully let a man have his own way when he says, "No thank you, I don't want your Christ."
With faith in such a universe we can be optimistic. The world is disintegrating. Men are losing all hope in the future. Like Louis XV; statesmen are saying, "After me the deluge." Men are losing faith in each other. It is starkly evident that without faith among men the social order disintegrates. But faith in Christ enables us to believe in our fellow men and relate to them in optimism and hope. Faith is not embittered when the giving of ourselves seems to be spurned. Christ says, "Whatever you did, ... you did for Me" (Matthew 25:40).
Faith that the universe is not ultimately hostile makes us friends of the earth, not looking on soil and tree and animal as things to exploit, but to nurture. Faith reconciles us to our inseparable identity with the earth and all creatures great and small. It inspires us to regard the earth as something to be cared for and enjoyed. Like ourselves it is not yet what it ought to be. But with us it hastens to meet our common destiny when God at last says, "Behold, I make all things new".