The death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman of a heroin overdose in New York’s West Village last Sunday is a tragedy. He had a long-standing partner with whom he had three children; he enjoyed career success with many accolades including an Oscar for his role in Capote. Yet, having had a respite from drug addiction for some twenty years he had turned once again to the heroin induced highs. Humanly speaking he had it all – success, fame, and family, yet he looked for more. Our deepest sympathy and prayers go out for his loved ones and friends.
His passing raises a question for us all: Is he yet another example of the twenty-first century restlessness and the cry, ‘If it feels good, do it’? As we all discover in time, simply following our passions does not ultimately satisfy.
The God factor.
When we turn to the pages of Luke’s Gospel we find that Jesus is telling us that the real cause of our dilemma is that we have tipped a relationship with God out of our lives, and that this needs remedying. While many thinking people come to realize that we are not here by chance, our inclination is to shut any notion of a creator God out of our lives.
The fact is, we are designed to share life with God but we have chosen to cut the relationship. As a result we are left lonely, insecure and without direction. We are at odds with ourselves, with one another and even with the universe. St Augustine the 5th century bishop of Hippo, understood this when he said:
‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’.
But instead of turning to God, what do we do? We spend all of our time trying to plug the gap that God’s absence has left. Many New Yorkers try to plug it with sexual adventure. But it never works. For no human relationship, no matter how emotionally intense, can be a substitute for the relationship with God that we were made for.
Let’s be honest.
It is always painful to have to face up to the truth, but the reality is, we all have skeletons in our closet. We all have things in our lives that we can’t think about without embarrassment. We all have thoughts in our imaginations that would make us blush if they were headlined in the public arena.
Someone has said:
‘Such is our pride that most of us engage in a kind of inner psychological conspiracy to conceal that secret shame from everybody, even from ourselves.’
We can pretend we are good people; we can even believe it ourselves. But it isn’t true.
Jesus sees through our subterfuge. We can’t hide from him what we can hide from others, and even from ourselves. He sees everything in our lives and he insists that we do too. He wants us to face up to the fact that we are fallen failures, spiritual bankrupts, sinners, guilty before the holy God.
Jesus was an extraordinary man who had remarkable powers and authority over sickness, evil, nature and even death (8:22-56). But he also has God’s authority to forgive us. This was the center-piece of his life’s work. He said it himself when he summed up the purpose of his coming: The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10).
It is only when we personally do business with Jesus as the Lord, the only Savior, that we find forgiveness, a new start in life, and a hope for the future. No wonder he asked his first followers:
“Who do you think I am?” (Luke 9:20)