A couple of decades ago in Florida, a guy named Walt bought up several thousand acres of marshy swamp land. His goal was to start a new, futuristic community. A city of utopia. His plan was to name this community the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
But you know it as Epcot.
Nothing stands up as a better example of modernism’s failed attempt at dealing with the problem of evil in the world than Epcot. We thought that if we could just organize and manage the world better that we wouldn’t have to worry about evil anymore.
But all we ended up with was the worst theme park in history.
In John 9, Jesus is asked why a man was born blind. And Jesus answers their question…kind of.
He doesn’t answer it the way that the disciples ask it, because they are asking about it from the perspective of Why? Why does evil happen? Instead, Jesus’ orientation is a future one. The Disciples are looking for a way to blame, Jesus is looking toward hope. He basically sidesteps their question and says “God is going to do something really cool with this.”
And he does.
One of the unique things about the Jewish-Christian faith is what it claims as the end of the story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but most of the systems of world religions have developed some way to talk about evil in pretty escapist terms.
In other words, if you adhere to a certain set of rules or set of beliefs then at the end of your life you will be taken to another place. You can fill in the blanks here, nirvana or paradise, but you will be rescued and deported from this world to a much better place.
This is a typical religious response to evil in this world. And lately it’s been the Christian response as well.
But that’s because we have forgotten our story.
God says in Genesis that creation is good, right? And even though death has entered the world, in all it’s forms, God hasn’t given up on this place. He is, in fact, working through history to redeem it. There is a Jewish concept called Tikkun Olam, which means the repair of the world. Now think about that. The Repair of the World…what a beautiful sentiment!
But it is going to take some doing.
So we find Jesus in a garden, before and after the cross, fulfilling all the imagery of this repair of the world. It was after all, a garden that this whole evil thing started in, and it is in a garden that it is being dealt with fully. Jesus embraces the conclusion to his story, trusting that it would not be final.
And then three days later he wakes up.
Too often Christianity wants to talk about forgiveness of sins, and then resurrection as a promise of some far off distant Heaven. But the resurrection IS the Forgiveness of Sins. After all, our story maintains that the deepest symptom of sin, is death. And the Scriptures seem to claim that what God did for Jesus is going to happen to every molecule of creation.
This is very much about this world.
Compare that to the popular theology that emerged not too long ago. It said that Jesus would just rapture us up and we would leave this world for a place that looked like it was in a Charmin commercial. Now, this view operates very much from the perspective of deism, that God lives upstairs, and we are left to organize and control the world below. And God’s deepest desire is to get us all out of his “not so good” creation.
In this theology the worst thing that can happen to you is that you are “Left Behind.”
But this is not the direction of Scripture. God hasn’t given up on his creation. God is planning on Heaven (or his dwelling place) coming down.
Did you know that one of the fastest growing groups of Christians in the country among the younger generation is Calvinism? Why do you think that is? I don’ think it’s because they started to like Complex theologies that fit neatly into 5 points. I think it’s because it says somebody, somewhere is in control of what is going on both out there, and in me.
One of the things that characterizes the postmodern generation is it’s hope for mosaics. That is that somehow all of life’s brokenness can somehow collude into something worthwhile or beautiful. Think of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” There is a reason that stories like this tap into something deep within us. Most people dream of a god/force/power that can somehow redeem all of the world’s brokenness and make it worth going through.
And the message of Scripture seems to be that God is sovereign over evil, and He is bending it back toward his purposes, even while suffering along side His creation.
That people may do things meant for evil, but God can use it for good.
The Jewish-Christian faith seems to be the one story that has something to say about evil without leaving this world behind. It’s about here. It’s about this place.
It’s about the Repair of the world.
Which is a bit better than a golf-ball shaped theme park.