Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For March 26 weekender, 2016
Striving to Find Meaning
David W. Hegg
Those of us who exercise in ways that push our physical endurance to the breaking point know just how easy it would be to stop short of the goal. Our muscles are screaming, our hearts are threatening to burst from the prison of our chest, and our lungs are crying out their inability to provide even one more breath. But we also know the euphoria of journeying on … all the way to end.
In an unprecedented way, our nation is engaged in an intellectual struggle that is demonstrating our inability to persevere all the way to truth. We are settling for clichés, platitudes, insults, and pretty promises. We are stopping short of the goal in order to enjoy the vacuous trinkets and carnival games being thrown our way. In short, we are settling for everything but the essential truths upon which ethical systems are grounded, virtuous lives are lived, and substantive decisions are made.
This weekend is yet another example of our preference for the petty over the real. Around the country people will flock to churches this weekend, ostensibly to celebrate the greatest miracle ever, the resurrection of Jesus.
Without doubt, the resurrection stands as the most important truth in the Christian worldview. It is the foundation of everything else the Bible has to say because if it didn’t really happen, nothing else matters. The whole biblical story, from the entrance of sin into the world through our first parents, moves through history toward the promised One through whom the brokenness of sin will be remedied by God. And this remedy demands death – the penalty for sin – be overcome in such a way that it no longer threatens our eternal relationship with our Creator. As the Apostle Paul so forcefully argued in his first letter to the Corinthian church, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are of all people most to be pitied because we have lashed our lives to a lie.
But Jesus did rise from the dead, as can be reasonably and logically argued. But that’s not my point here actually.
My point is simply that this weekend thousands of Christian church leaders will mimic the fashion of the day and allow their congregants to stop short of the truth and nobility of our theological center. They will dress this most important issue up in carnival costume, trying to attract people with caged lions, motorcycle jumps, Easter bunnies and egg hunts, and any other “bait and switch” gimmick they can conjure up. “Come for the carnival and stay for Jesus” seems to be their guiding principle.
The reality is this. If you don’t make the main thing the main thing you’ll never get people to persevere all the way to it. If you give your mind and lungs and muscles a reason to quit before the race is finished, often you will do just that. If you undermine the seriousness of the political process with platitudes and hucksterism, you’ll get people thinking the real issues don’t matter. And if you characterize and accessorize the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection through cheap, unadulterated sales promotions more suited to a supermarket’s grand opening, you leave people believing Jesus rose triumphant so their lives could be more fun.
All around us we see our intellectual fitness failing us as a people. We’re almost unable to persevere through the chaff to find real meaning. Worse, we are starting to enjoy substituting fluff for truth, and convenience for reality.
Maybe I’m overstating the case, but if so, it is only a pointed wake-up call where it is needed. I recognize my world of theology and church life has largely stopped exerting influence and instead, is being influenced in this regard. I guess I have met the enemy, and it is us.
But it is never too late to do the right thing. If you take any time this weekend to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, don’t settle for substitutes. Understanding how God the Father provided a way of forgiveness and spiritual life through God the Son is the truth that truly transforms life. Leave the circus to Barnum and Bailey, and get all the way to Jesus’ death and resurrection. After all, the grandeur of the empty tomb doesn’t need gimmicks if you really find its true meaning.