Did you watch the Rams vs. Chiefs game last week? I heard about it from a friend after it happened and watched the 12-minute recap on YouTube later that evening. What an intense game! The teams went back and forth, there were multiple fumbles and interceptions, incredible skill was displayed, and a huge number of points were scored. At the end of the game, though, one team won and the other lost. For about half the crowd, it was a day of rejoicing. For the others, a day of mourning.
Today is another day of thanksgiving and mourning. Americans of European descent celebrate their independence from religious oppression, the provision of God in the infancy of America, and the enduring blessing and prosperity of this country. Simultaneously, Native Americans mourn the loss of their freedom, land, and much of their culture. Both are justified, and both exist together. In a world that is plagued by sin, these realities coexist.
When God created the world, he framed and filled creation and called it “good.” He allowed a man and a woman to live in a perfect environment, gave them work to do, provided them with ample food, and told them to avoid eating from one tree. Unfortunately, they were tempted, disobeyed, took what wasn’t theirs, and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they (and the tempter) were ejected from the garden and put under a curse. Of course, things came along in their lives that were worthy of celebrating, like the birth of two baby boys, but the reality of the fall always caused the joy to be mixed with sorrow.
As God was sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, he pronounced a curse on them and the serpent. In God’s message to the serpent, he revealed the beginnings of a plan to redeem his people and restore them in their relationship with himself. He said, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15). For the next four thousand years, humanity experienced gyrations of joy and heartbreak while awaiting the one who would come to crush the head of the serpent. Then, one day in a small town outside Jerusalem, Jesus, the Prince of peace, was born. Jesus was sent by God to show people their sin, point them back to God, call for repentance and faith, and then lay down his life as an atoning sacrifice for all. In his life, death, and resurrection Jesus “proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17). The peace Jesus offers humanity is peace with God.
Fortunately, peace with God opens the possibility of peace with people.
Maybe you have already come to understand your sinfulness and placed your trust in Jesus as your only hope. If so, you may be asking, “if I’m already justified, why do I still experience sadness?” What God tells us is that things are not as they should be. God didn’t intend for people to become disposed, but they do. He didn’t intend for sin to corrupt everything, but it did. Even after Jesus perfectly finished the atoning work God sent him to do, everything was not immediately set right. But one day all things will be made right. God can send Jesus back at any moment to finish the job, remove believers from the world, and execute perfect judgement. But he has, at least for today, chosen to wait. He waits, not because he has to, but because he loves sinners and wants more to hear the message of his offer of salvation through Jesus. As long as he waits, allowing this sin-sick works to keep spinning, allowing joy to be mixed with pain, he allows people to turn to him.
In the future Jesus will return and make all things right. He will judge wickedness and set up his righteous kingdom. Until then, he invites us to grieve the injustice in the world, rejoice in the blessings we have, grow in holiness, and join him in his mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
There is no easy fix to the issues that plague us today but if we wish to take a step toward joy and peace, we must begin by taking a knee at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1