When this century began, the world was bordering on near hysteria over the coined phrase “Y2K.” You may recall how that “Millennium Bug” spawned fears that the date change from “99” to “00” would create havoc in computer networks around the world.
This year marks the next generation birthed since Y2K. As with the sitcoms of a previous era, the coming offspring will probably never hear of Y2K. What one generation battles, the next one forgets. The world didn’t collapse on January 1, 2000, but the fallout of a strident secularism has changed our culture, albeit with the aid of computers. It may not be accidental that the emblem on the new means of communication is ironically a half-bitten apple, man playing God and then fearing his own creation.
Twenty years from now, the next generation will marvel at the impeachment hearings that have dominated the news ad nauseam in this 2019/2020 transition. One of the most surprising things in this was an Ivy League professor of law who said this: “[W]e have to ask ourselves, someday we will no longer be alive and we’ll go wherever it is we go. The good place or the other place. And, you know, we may meet there, Madison and Hamilton, and they will ask us, ‘When the president of the United States acted to corrupt the structure of the republic, what did you do?’”
We know that politics has become our religion. More to the point, with the absence of much history being taught in our schools and a new pluralism that does not educate our young in the shared meanings of the past, leave alone thoughts of an afterlife, some student might wonder what a city in Wisconsin or a Broadway play have to do with our eternal destiny! Almost every category the professor invoked in his statement is actually disbelieved by our intellectuals. They thrive on repudiating the past, deny an eternal state, and toss moral accountability to the wind.
The fears of Y2K never materialized, but what we’ve done with the ability to mass communicate is more real and devastating. No foreign nation needed to meddle in our electoral process. We’ve done a thorough decimation job by ourselves.
But a new year is dawning. What do we pick as memorable from 2019 and to what will we pin our hopes in 2020? Can we look beyond our political melodrama and instead, see what God desires for us as his creation? It could make the difference. In the beginning, God created the human family and for millennia since then, that has been his purposeful plan. That is what He intended to bless for our own good. Our self-destructing culture notwithstanding, can we, each one of us, build a family to the glory of God?
Beyond the immediate family, He built the family of his followers. More than ever, those two families are needed if the larger family of humanity is to see a new hope, not made by statute but by his law written in our hearts. Our inner longings and the longing to belong impel us beyond mere manmade laws.
Two stories illustrate the point, one an atrocity, the other a tragedy. A few days ago, I received a telephone call from a friend in the Middle East who asked if I would phone a friend of his living in Chicago. Her nineteen-year-old daughter was brutally and fatally assaulted on her way home from university one night. The mother is understandably heartbroken and devastated.
A few hours after I made that difficult call, I heard of a dear friend of many years whose wife has suddenly and surprisingly been diagnosed with ALS. As I wrote to him and received his reply, I was deeply saddened.
The hurting mother in Chicago said, “You don’t know my voice, Ravi, but I know yours. Thank you for calling and reaching out.” My friend whose wife was diagnosed with ALS said, “Your email meant an awful lot.” What does one say when the heart is so grieved? Words are not enough. The wounds are too fresh and deep. But it is profoundly healing when those who hurt hear a voice, feel a hug, know the touch of a friend, and sense the strength that only God can give.
Both situations speak to two common realities. Sooner or later, we all face heartbreak. What really matters is how we love our families and how we make the effort to reach out to those whose hearts ache.
As I write this, my mother-in-law is celebrating her one-hundredth birthday with three generations of family around her—her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. This to her is what brings the most peace now. But she did more than just raise a family. Every Christmas and on special occasions, she would seek out those who were alone and in need of a family to encourage their hearts. She was the quintessential example of sharing her family with those who had none. What an amazing gift! The gift of hospitality is returned at the end of life, even in a hospital. In time, the caregiver needs care. Love was multiplied immeasurably in its returns.
Twenty-twenty is a number on a timeline. But it is also the measure of healthy vision. The world is in chaos almost everywhere, and the vortex of hopelessness is spinning ever downward with wild speed, throwing people aside with callousness. That is the result when law is wedded only to power. The ultimate lawgiver told us that out of life’s excellencies, three stand out—faith, hope and love—and love is the greatest. No law or constitution can surpass that. Brute power is for brutes. There is a law above our laws and a love above our loves. True spirituality is to love God and love our fellow human beings. The family is God’s microcosm. Love is the root; our words, our touch, and our voices used for the benefit of others are the branches.
Twenty-twenty vision calls for us to see clearly what ultimately matters and not be blinded by things temporal. A daughter who went all too early and a diagnosed fatal disease are sobering reminders to love while we have the opportunity. It is in surrendering to God that we win, and it is in dying to self that we live. For ultimately, we look forward to a destiny where He who defines love will hold us accountable.
Love those whom God has given to you. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love even those who hate you. Most importantly, make this the year you choose to love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. From that, love will bring to birth what really matters in life. That is why Jesus spoke of the new birth that opens the eyes of our soul.
I just saw a clip of a twelve-year-old boy who was born colorblind. At his school, he was presented with a pair of glasses to correct the malady and then shown a picture with a riot of color to enthrall his imagination. He paused; he looked and looked. He kept staring at the splendor he was seeing for the first time. He covered his eyes and could not stop the tears. The eyes that were opened were momentarily blinded by the hands and the tears that flowed. The touch and the feeling. It is reminiscent of Pilgrim in The Pilgrim’s Progress reaching the top of the hill called Calvary. The hymn writer says:
Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen.
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Stars with deeper beauty shine
Since I know as now I know,
I am his and he is mine.
This little boy couldn’t believe what he had missed and could now see. Those who were there and saw it responded with their own tears of delight. That is what heaven will be like, the ultimate coalescing of every emotion at its blissful peak. Everest will be dwarfed at that moment. Such are the lenses God gives us to know what is real and understand what awaits us in his presence.
I hope I see the law professor there. I’d like to introduce him to Moses, who saw the glory of God on Sinai and described the character of God so we could “see” who God wanted us to reflect.
In an equally stirring passage, we are told that though the law came through Moses, grace and truth have come to us through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Moses gave us a mirror; Jesus offers us a river of cleansing and refreshment. The limitations and transcending of the law were demonstrated to us on the cross when in the midst of his agony in bringing the world redemption, Jesus looked at his disciple John and gave the care of his mother, Mary, into John’s charge. What an incredible range and particularity of the gospel for all of humanity! He was bringing redemption to the world but he didn’t forget his family. May we move into the new year with that vision before us.
Hymn writer George Matheson wrote this hymn on the eve of his sister’s wedding and the sad memory of the woman he was once engaged to years before until she learned he was going blind:
O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be….
O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Matheson’s insight was even more important than his diminishing eyesight. What we see now is disheartening. What we know of the end brings hope.
May our Lord give us 2020 insight into how to make this year one that will count for God. Happy New Year from all of us at RZIM to you and your family, and to all our fellow human beings. Thank you for standing with us. You have blessed us beyond measure. We have a very full year of commitments. We look forward to a blessed year together.
Lord, hold our hands; Lord, hear our prayer.