Writing in The Wall Street Journal last week (02/09/17), Peggy Noonan wrote: Let’s step back from the daily chaos and look at a big, pressing question. Last fall at a defense forum a significant military figure was asked: If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one big thing you’d give the U.S. military right now?
We’d all been talking about the effects of the sequester and reform of the procurement system and I expected an answer along those lines. Instead, he said: We need to know what the U.S. government wants from us. We need to know the overarching plan because if there’s no higher plan we can’t make plans to meet the plan. This was freshly, bluntly put, and his answer came immediately, without pause.
The world is in crisis. The old order that more or less governed things after World War II has been swept away. The changed world that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall is also over.
We’ve been absorbing this for a while, since at least 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea. But what plan are we developing to approach the world as it is now?
It’s a very good question. However, it’s not my purpose to consider it as a political question, but rather as a biblical and theological one. Assuming there is a higher supernatural realm, that there is a good and all-powerful God who rules, is there a higher plan so that we can ‘make plans to meet the plan’?
A HIGHER PLAN
In a world where, despite every human attempt to change things for the better, injustice and suffering continue unabated, is there in fact ‘a higher plan’?
To answer the question we need to ask another question: Is there any evidence that there is a God who has a bigger plan? If so, what is it? The answer turns on the Person of Jesus.
In Colossians 2:13-15 we read: You, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.
Captives. The Bible sees history as divided into two great epochs. Before Jesus came there was the present age— the world. Now that Jesus has come a new epoch has begun—the age to come. For the present, this new epoch stands alongside the first. Yes, God has always been in control but the present age is in bondage to self-interest and evil. We are captive to moral laws we can’t keep.
Satan, the accuser, has power over us because he holds ready the file of our failures to present to God’s court of justice. And God, being righteous, has no alternative but to condemn us to death. Self-interest is treachery against him and a capital offense.
C.S. Lewis captures these elements in his Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when Edmund betrayed Peter, Susan and Lucy, and Aslan himself. The white witch demanded Edmund’s life saying he had broken ‘the laws of the deep’. “His life is forfeit,” she shrieked.
THIS IS OUR CONDITION
Alienated from God we are in the power of spiritual forces we cannot defeat and are en route to a grave we can’t avoid. We are captive to the pain, suffering, and evil we have brought upon ourselves.
But then came Jesus. Paul tells us that Jesus smashed the bars of this spiritual prison of the present age when he died. He wiped out the moral debt of the laws we couldn’t obey and he disarmed the demonic powers we couldn’t overcome. Further, he abolished the death we couldn’t escape. The cross is where Jesus Christ has potentially turned our captivity into a glorious liberty.
God’s higher, bigger plan has been to destroy our hostility towards him and towards one another, and our subsequent suffering and pain. And he did it without destroying the enemy – you and me.
God’s plan is one we would never have dreamed of – God himself providing the means of restoring our true glory. No wonder Paul the Apostle wrote, The sufferings of this present age cannot be compared with the glory that is to be revealed (Romans 8:18).
When we begin to understand this bigger plan of God’s we come to see the ‘plans we need to make’ in a world that continues its giddy course of instability, injustice, and suffering.
It is more than time to play our part in reaching family, friends and many others with the good news that God has a plan for a world where there will be no more dying, no more tears, but one where there is true peace and lasting joy.
© John G. Mason