Happy New Year! Another day. Another year. A year of more change…?
In his Choruses from the Rock written in 1934, TS Eliot prophetically observed:
But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before:
though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God;
and this has never happened before.
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
and then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
in an age which advances progressively backwards?
The onset of the coronavirus and the suffering and grief it has brought to millions, the looting and rioting that has impacted livelihoods, and much more, challenge us to ask, ‘What is the most pressing issue as we enter the new year?’ TS Eliot suggests it is the matter of God in our lives.
As a culture, the Western world today rejects the notion of there being an ultimate truth. It is said that at best we can only have opinions. You have your opinions and I have mine. To tell me I am wrong is to be arrogant and judgmental.
But here is an irony. To counter the coronavirus pandemic, people are looking to medical science for a vaccine. And the only way a vaccine can be developed is if there is an objective body of knowledge that can be tested through experiment and reasoning. If there is no agreed world view concerning this kind of knowledge there can be no assurance with respect to a vaccine.
And many scientists would agree. Where some might disagree is with a world view that holds that there is a creator God. And this is because they deny a world view that underlies the meaning of what are called the natural laws.
We find ourselves with a dilemma. We live in a world where social progressivism denies objectivity and the idea of truth. On the other hand, the same world is dependent upon there being objective truth when it comes to the laws of nature and the search for a vaccine.
So, what should we do? Let the light of God’s gospel shine in our lives.
In Luke 11:29-32 Jesus had been reminding the crowds that in response to Jonah’s preaching, the people of Nineveh had repented and turned to God. He also commented that the Queen of Sheba had travelled hundreds of miles to learn from the wisdom of King Solomon.
He then went on to make an astonishing announcement: “… Something greater than Solomon is here” (11:31). Was the growing crowd around him aware they were in the presence of greatness itself – indeed, God himself? Were they listening? Were they aware of what would happen if they turned their backs on him?
Jesus concluded this teaching with these rather enigmatic words: “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”
Light and darkness are images that bubble throughout the Bible. In the Gospel of John we read Jesus’ words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Furthermore, when we turn to Jesus God transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:14).
So, to have the light, the lamp of the gospel shine in our lives, is the most wonderful privilege we have. How foolish of us not to let this light shine into our very hearts. Furthermore, we need to let this light so transform our lives that others will also see the changes. This will involve growing in the riches of God’s love. It means that our lives will be shaped, not by the latest ideas or ‘correctness’ but by God’s Spirit teaching us from God’s Word.
It means recognizing that all of humanity in every age has its faults and failures. William Hazlitt, the 19th century essayist, and drama and literary critic observed: Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols — it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them.
So often today, God’s people are falling short of letting the light of our faith shine for others to see. Wanting to avoid being seen to be intolerant or arrogant, we remain silent when it comes to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Many of us like to think we are good people because we refrain from sexual immorality or theft, living lives of outward integrity.
But to live a complacent, self-satisfied life, thinking that all is well, and yet not praying nor looking for opportunities to reach out to others with God’s truth, is to treat God’s king with contempt.
Let’s pray for one another as we start a new calendar year, that we will walk in the light of God’s love, trusting him with our lives, and letting his light so shine through us that others will be drawn to the Lord Jesus themselves.
You may also want to register for the Anglican Connection Conference where we will be exploring the theme: The Majestic Glory in an Age of Change.
In his 1939 Christmas speech, on the eve of Britain’s darkest hour in World War 2, King George VI concluded with this quotation: “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.”