In philosopher Colin McGinn’s intriguingly titled article “Something Is Wrong and Somebody Is To Blame,” he observes, “[T]he modern world has produced an abiding sense that there is something deeply wrong with our lives. We want to be better and freer from guilt, but the old ways of escaping guilt are gone. Officially we no longer believe in original sin, but we are haunted by its secular progeny…. I would characterize it as a kind of precarious shadowy unease, and a felt poverty of spirit. The more comfortable we become on the outside the more this elusive guilt gnaws on the inside.”(1)
Why do we do what we ought not to do and why don’t we do what we ought? Why, with all the scientific advances and advantages of living today, are we still confounded by not only widespread hate and evil but also the malevolent inclinations in our own hearts—even towards those we claim to love?
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Annie Dillard attributes our malady to the loss of shared values once firmly held:
“If meaning is contextual, and it is, then the collapse of ordered Western society and its inherited values following World War I cannot be overstressed; when we lost our context; we lost our meaning. We became, all of us in the West, more impoverished and in one sense more ignorant than pygmies, who, like the hedgehog, know one great thing: in this case, why they are here. We no longer know why we are here.”(2)
It is in this place that the Easter story of Jesus crucified and resurrected that we might have life—that is, the gospel—speaks so uniquely, for it offers the most plausible and hopeful understanding of who we are and why we are here. We are made in the image of God to reflect his love and splendor, but we have sought to find our purpose and home elsewhere. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The gospel offers us a window into our hearts and God’s grace to see our desires and “our poverty of spirit.” And this gospel offers us so much more. It offers us a relationship with the One who made us and who knows and loves us as no other can, and with this relationship, the freedom and power to receive all that God longs to give us: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control.(3)
“The entrance of your words give light,” wrote the psalmist of God.(4) Rare is the person who can speak into our lives with both truth and love. I think particularly of Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He discloses that he knows about her five marriages and current man she is living with and that he is the living water for which she thirsts. We might not be surprised if she had turned away in anger and shame, but instead, she leaves her water jar and goes back to her village to exclaim, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29). Jesus doesn’t seek to demoralize her but to tenderly unveil her life so that she might discover her “broken cisterns that cannot hold water” and find the One who will never leave her thirsty.
Throughout the Scriptures we see evidence of hearts awakened when God comes near. There is God wrestling with Jacob and Job crying out for mercy. There is the risen Lord walking with the dismayed travelers to Emmaus who didn’t recognize the long-awaited Anointed One they were hoping for was at their side. There is this same Jesus appearing to Saul, a violent persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus. In each instance and countless others, they are afforded an intimate encounter with their very Maker and Lord and the grace and forgiveness that would forever change their lives.
Indeed, it is because “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … full of grace and truth” that we can trust his description of who we are and who he claims to be. Christ understands our frailties, our fears, our disordered affections. He knows our longing for love and our unwillingness to surrender. He knows the knots of cynicism, heartache, and distrust that can tangle our desire to believe, whether we’re a skeptic or a Christian. To each Jesus says, “Come”—and so much more. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30).
Danielle DuRant is Director of Research and Writing at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, GA.
(1) From Colin McGinn, “Something Is Wrong and Somebody Is To Blame,” Book Review of Paul Oppenheimer’s Infinite Desire (Madison, 2001), The Wall Street Journal (13 February 2001), A24 and online (subscription only) at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB98203977957817365.
(2) Annie Dillard, Living by Fiction (New York: Perennial Library/Harper & Row, 1982), 25-26.
(3) See Galatians 5: 22-23 among other verses.
(4) Psalm 119:130.
(5) John 1:14.