So today is day 3 of the new year. The world is, indeed, still here. I feel bad for all those who put so much faith in the old Mayan calendar hoopla. We’re still kickin’. The world is still turning. I read the other day that something like 150,000 people, on average, die worldwide and around 350,000 children are born each day worldwide. So the world ended for about 150,000 people on December 21st. The beauty of life, however, is that the world began for about 350,000 new people on that very same day!
So if you haven’t noticed, the title is due to the fact that I’m feeling particularly pensive at the moment. I’m pretty sure I’ve not “revealed” it and I don’t know if my wife has mentioned it but I’m a Southern Baptist worship pastor. I like discussing deep things: worship and theology, politics, psychology, sociology, and just the study of life in general. I like to ponder all the big “why are we here?” type questions. I enjoy that stuff because it helps people. When you’re alone in the darkness on a random Thursday at three in the morning and you don’t understand why you hurt so bad, why life is so hard, and you feel like you’re all alone and at the end of your rope — that’s when answers to those big questions are really helpful. So I like to try to push through them, work through them, so that I can help people. All that being said, I’ve been reflecting on some Bible verses lately, and I thought I would share them.
With Christmas just passed, naturally, I have spent a lot of time over the past month thinking about the whole birth narrative of Jesus Christ. What struck me as interesting, as I read it for the umpteenth time, was Luke 2:14.
At this point in the story God sends angels to planet earth, to a specific spot in the middle east, in the country of Israel, in the same region near the town of Bethlehem, to a bunch of shepherds going about their business, so they can proclaim the birth of the Christ, Jesus, who will save his people from their sins (emphasis mine). So in Luke 2:14 the angels then say:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The King James Version says “and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (I typically use the English Standard Version of the Bible.)
So the version we’ve all heard Linus recite year after year in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special says that God basically just spews out peace and goodwill to everybody. This is a deliciously sappy, happy notion. Everyone likes to think that no matter how ridiculously we live, no matter how selfish we are or how many people we hurt along the way, that God is just standing there in total approval with two thumbs up. This translation of the scripture leaves a whole lot wide open.
I prefer the English Standard Version. It makes far more sense to me. God is proclaiming peace to those with whom he is pleased. If you are someone God is not pleased with, and we ALL know who we are (all of us!), then why would we be so inclined to presume that God would grant peace to our lives.
Now I say God is not pleased with all of us because we all sin. All the time. Practically non-stop! This is not to say that God is NEVER pleased with us. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But in the sinful state we’re in, as often as we are in it, we really should be in a state of repentance far more often than we are.
The angels were proclaiming that God is glorious, and that peace, the only true peace in this life, was being born in the form of a tiny, helpless, infant baby who would save the entire world. What a glorious, romantic God is He?! He would send His one and only Son (whom being God, He loves FAR more than any earthly father can ever love any earthly son) into a horrible world to be torn apart for the sins of the rest of humanity; sins he didn’t even commit himself, ever. So is God a big “meanie” because He created hell (in a universe where there’s an up for every down, a left for every right, an equal and opposite reaction)? Or are we just terribly ungrateful and too absurdly self-obsessed to notice a God who loves us despite our filthy disobedience and audacious criticism of His system? Should we not be thankful for Christ, offer our devotion to Him, and accept the peace that God gives to those with whom He is pleased?
Or maybe that’s just too common sense or something. Maybe it’s just me. LOL That is all.
(Again, a day late. I’m killin’ it this new year!)