Salvation, fullness of life comes to whoever by the grace of God manifested finally and completely and solely in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everlasting LIFE is God’s gift!
At this stage of my life it seems a bit tedious to go on and on saying that because to me it’s so obviously true. Still, if it’s true why wouldn’t we gladly say it.
God is magnificent and glorious for out of love He purposed a world and a human family and meant to do them good; meant to do them eternal good and He meant to do so because that’s the kind of God He is as we’ve learned from the biblical witness that comes to its climax in the blessed Lord Jesus.
I don’t know everything about anything but I’m aware that we the human family can be desperately wicked. I’ll make no attempt to prove that point—is there any sane person who would doubt it?
Let me tell you what has come home to me more clearly as the years have gone by—the human family while it can be desperately wicked can also be profoundly gallant and worthy of admiration. I’m not advocating humanism! But I will not deny that there are hosts of non-Christian people who live lives of moral grandeur. To reject! God in any of the forms that takes ends in everlasting loss.
I say that all the evil present in our world is the expression of human corruption and I believe that our corrupt state as a family is the result of many contributing factors. No one is born bad! The presence of and the pervasive nature of evil gets hold of us and as we grow we enter into that evil way.
But it’s very clear to us that evil isn’t the only thing that’s in the world. We’re persuaded beyond debate that God has not left the human family without help in His war against evil. The ways in which He helps the human family are many but He does help us! That there is good in the world as well as evil is plain to see and all the religious double-talk won’t change it. In their millions there are lovers who love others more than they love themselves. There are people who astonish us with their gallantry when they lay down their lives as caregivers to the profoundly and chronically ill. There are people young and old, rich and poor, female and male, educated or semi-literate, red and yellow, black and white who live gloriously in all parts of the world.
There! When we see such people we see the magnificence of God. There are those who wonder how a good God can be lord of a world that is so desperately wicked and that wonder is no strange thing—didn’t God’s own prophets and psalmists wonder the same thing? But there’s something else to wonder about: how can there not be a good God at work in the world when there is so much human grandeur and honor, gallantry, patience, compassion, self-giving and cheerfulness?
Why would we doubt it? What is it, are we afraid to say these people live lovely lives (not sinless lives) in case they think they will earn heaven by their goodness? Because we know they can’t buy their way into God’s love we must call their goodness evil (as some corrupt religion does) or must we avoid praising them when they do so gloriously what we wish we could do?
God help us to believe that all we see that’s lovely and fine is His work. God help us to believe that He has given them more than food and gladness, friends and family, health and political freedom. God help us to believe that He has gifted them with friends and teachers, literature and experiences that mediate truth to them—truth that shapes their character and strengthens their resolve to love and do what’s right and just and beautiful.
Tell them that! Tell them we see that in them and God has richly blessed them with it and maybe that will enable them to think noble things of God; maybe that will turn their hearts to a God who is already committed to them and who expresses that commitment in the moral glory we see in them.
That beats to pulp denying the goodness in them and damning all the evil in them. Link their goodness to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! Link their harmless joys and pleasures with Him. Help them to admire Him. Don’t begrudge them their decency, honesty, faithfulness—it’s the work of God. Give them some praise! We don’t need to endorse corruption or remain silent about it but we need to acknowledge the presence of God in moral loveliness wherever and in whoever we see it.
Back in 1938 they made a movie about the work of a priest called Edward Flanagan who began a home for needy boys—a home that grew and grew until it became Boy’s Town. It is a moving and fine movie with plenty of interesting characters in it.
As the movie tells it Flanagan goes to the store of his friend Dave Morris [played by Henry Hull] looking for a $100 loan to lease a house to shelter the homeless boys he’d gathered up. Business man Morris wants to know what Flanagan has as collateral and the priest brings out a cheap watch that the broker has scores of—he sells them for a couple of dollars each. What else? The priest has nothing else but a10¢ toy—the kind with a clown face, two little holes as eyes and two little balls you must get settled in the eyes. That? That’s collateral? Against his better business judgment Dave succumbs to the priest’s plea and loans him the $100, refuses the collateral and urges the priest, “You better leave before I change my mind.”
Flanagan says, “Oh, I’m not afraid of that Dave!”
I love that line! I love it not only because it was the right thing to say but also because Dave Morris was such a character that the priest was able to say such a thing to him. How marvelous it is to know such people—they make a commitment and have no intention of backing away from it. You know such people don’t you? Christians and non-Christians. You’ve met or heard of them; you might well be one of them; one of those that people talk about as I am now talking about Dave Morris who helped Flanagan’s dream to become a reality and wouldn’t “change his mind” until such a place as Boy’s Town came into and remains in existence to this day.
The scene from the movie ends with Flanagan talking the storeowner into selling him some stuff for the house with Morris’ own money and then working another scheme on him. The frustrated Morris blusters and protests but is clearly weakening and the priest says to him just as he’s leaving, “Dave, tonight before you go to sleep you’re gonna like yourself—a lot!”
I love that line too and I fervently hope that some of you who read this, in whom Dave Morris is alive and well—I hope that you know God is enabling you and has blessed you and is pleased with such a spirit in you and that tonight you can like yourself—a lot.