The world doesn’t change? Of course it does! Reality includes thoughts and feelings, purposes and promises, convictions and emotional responses as well as rocks and rivers, mountains and recliner chairs, stars and ancient trees, sub-atomic particles and huge blue whales. Reality includes how we relate to the world that is “not us” and since our views change about people and things around us—the world changes.
Yes, but trees remain trees and streets still streets! Of course, and there’s no point in being silly about that; but what do you think the song-writer had in mind when he has Freddy Eynsford-Hill singing,
“I have often walked down this street before/
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before/
All at once am I, several stories high/
Knowing I’m on the street where you live”?
Freddy is now madly in love with Eliza Doolittle and ordinary prose won’t capture what he feels. The world is now new!
Well, that’s just poetry!
What’s just poetry? The way the guy feels! No! That’s not just poetry—the description of what he actually experiences is poetic but the experience, the emotional surge, the joy tinged with a little awe is real! He has changed and because that’s true he no longer feels the same about the street he thought nothing of before. The street has now become “her” street and because it’s hers he relates to it differently and that experience of relating is real, as real as the street he walks on. He knows the street is a street but his love for her invests the street with her presence. To tell him he’s silly, that he doesn’t actually rise off the pavement would be silly—it never entered his head that he did. To tell him he doesn’t feel joy and excitement at being on her street would be to talk nonsense for that’s exactly what he does feel! That long stretch of concrete with brick structures on each side of it will never be the same to him.
Reality (the world) actually changes because reality is perceived and experienced and how we perceive and experience reality changes depending on events or truths or convictions and such.
Well, this is all psychological stuff! Of course it is! Should we pretend otherwise? Humans are more than flesh and blood. They’re embodied dreams and fears, worries and joys, relationships and convictions. Should we pretend that the only reality is what we can bump into or see under a microscope or through a telescope? Reality includes the observer—bumping and telescoping and microscoping and whatever—they’re all possible only to personal observers.
This relational truth about things is not restricted to romance—friendship, parent/child, teacher/student and other relationships work the same transforming magic. The same holds true in our relationship to Jesus Christ for God works at the psychological level as well as all other levels.
I mention all this because just some time ago a young man asked me if the doctrine of the life, cross, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus made any difference to the “now” of people’s lives rather than the future and if it did, in what way.
We should insist, certainly, that a glorious future hope affects the present. Paul thought it should, in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58. He spoke of a coming day when for all who are embraced in Christ’s saving work that death would be obliterated and then he says (15:58 NRSV), “Therefore, my beloved, be…always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” The coming resurrection casts a light on their present lives for the Lord—none of it is lost!
The truth is: faith in Jesus is the future, it is the assurance, it is “being sure” of what we hope for (Hebrews 11:1). But that faith in light of the future (and it should never be severed from that) even now makes the world a different place if we have given ourselves in faith to Christ. As surely as streets remain streets pain and suffering remain pain and suffering but in light of faith in Jesus these realities are not the same; we now relate to them in an altogether different way. The pleasures and joys of life take on a new complexion when they are related to Jesus Christ. So do the world’s great wrongs and the suffering endured by the plundered poor; tyrants are more tyrannical and sinister, injustice more unjust and self-centeredness less excusable.
If we don’t feel that at any serious level it might well be because we haven’t yet grasped at a significant depth (or been grasped by) the truth in and about Jesus. Perhaps if we spent more time prayerfully and seriously reflecting on the major issues of our faith and less on the needful but relatively peripheral matters we’d discover that the world has changed since He came.
Maybe one day, while we’re working our way through the truth about Him we’ll be transfixed by a realization, our eyes will get big and round and though the emotional experience will calm down the world will never be the same. Truth frees but it also makes us debtors to all those God loves! It isn’t always peace and quiet joy but through His eyes it’s always glorious; always cosmic as well as personal and individual!
A new world IS coming but even now we sense:
Heaven above is softer blue
Earth beneath is sweeter green,
Something lives in every hue
That Christless eyes have never seen.
Birds with gladder songs overflow
Stars with deeper beauty shine,
Since I know as now I know
I am his and he is mine.
Write me if you wish if you feel the need: firstname.lastname@example.org