By Bob Hiller –
This past week, California Governor Jerry Brown made this comment to the LA Times concerning climate change, ““The laws of nature are immutable,” he said. “You have to conform to them, not make them conform to you.” Now, I’ll let the smarter, more politically savvy Jagged Word bloggers point out the irony that these words come from a governor who endorses the systematic killing of unborn children. Rather, I want to deal with the words themselves. Because, the way I see it, they are true. The laws of nature are immutable and no matter how hard we will it, we cannot overcome them.
This is no mere truthism, it is also sage advice to pro athletes who are in the twilight of their careers. This week, Kobe Bryant announced he would be retiring. A premier athlete who had trained and willed his body to perform at the top level for the better part of 20 years can no longer physically carry his team on his back. The law of nature got him. Despite his will to win, he needs to retire. And let’s be honest Bronco fans, after watching Brock team up with the officials to take down the dark side of the force (i.e. the New England Patriots) on Sunday, aren’t we all kind of hoping Peyton takes a cue from Kobe? His age and injuries have caught up with him to the point that the majority of his passes are becoming a liability for the offense.
I never thought I’d see the day where Kobe or Manning struggled to produce on the field. But even they have to conform to the law of nature, because no matter how much you want to play, nature will not conform to you. To put a quaint theological spin on it, the law reveals the truth about the body’s ability to stay young forever. The law puts those dreams to death, no matter how strong one’s desire is to play more.
This truth about the laws of nature is true for nature itself, our bodies, and (if I may take a dark turn here) human nature as well. Once again this week we saw the truth of human nature before our very eyes. As three gunman opened fire in San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Center, we were once again subjected to Satan’s tyrannical work. And, despite all the well-intentioned sentiments were about the strength of the human spirit and how we all stand with the victims and their families, we are once again confronted with the reality that the laws of the sinful nature are immutable from our end. We can’t stop the sinful nature from wreaking havoc on this world.
Somewhere Chesterton says that the only Christian doctrine that is empirically demonstrable is the doctrine of original sin. He’s right. Beyond that, it is also true that no matter what measures are taken to keep that demonic work of sin in check, it finds ways to oppress, attack, and kill. Whether it is on a small scale with gossip that seeks to harm another’s reputation (the most valuable thing we have, Luther says) or on a larger murderous scale as we saw in Paris or San Bernardino, the hard facts in this world are that we cannot do a thing to stop sin from its destructive work. We can’t even seem to keep our hands out of it!
So, people will set out to adjust gun laws or create more government regulations. Others will suggest we keep gun laws the way they are and leave the government out of it. And though there may be enforceable and peaceable solutions to stopping gun violence in our country, we must not kid ourselves into thinking that fewer guns will result in fewer horrifying tragedies.
Now, don’t read this as some simplistic “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” pablum. It is rather an acknowledgement that this world is filled with people who are either empowered by or made helpless by sin. And we can expect hell and horror to be a part of lives, quite frankly, until Christ returns.
Nor am I saying that we shouldn’t work towards a world that is full of truth, goodness, and beauty, as our Virtue in the Wasteland teammates like to say. But, it is to acknowledge that such virtue is not the norm when the wasteland is the context. In the wasteland, it looks at times as though God has forgotten that He is merciful and powerful and is the only one who can stop the immutable law of sin. This is the wasteland where the laws of the sinful nature are immutable, and death, it seems, reigns.
I don’t mean to be a downer. But, the law of the sinful nature, as we could call it, is really pissing me off lately. Frankly, I hope it pisses you off too. I hope when you see stories like this, it makes you sad and angry. I hope it makes you long for something more. I hope it forces you to cry out to God with the words of Psalmist, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” Psalm 44:23-26
Perhaps this is a little heavy for a sports blog in the season of Advent, but dear friends, this is what Advent is for: longing, repenting, crying out for mercy. We pray “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” not as a sentimental Wednesday service favorite, but as a longing cry of lament for Christ to come and end Satan’s tyranny, and to put death’s darks shadows to flight.
Advent is for lament. But, lament is not without hope. For we who cry for mercy have a God who listens. A God who, in answer, put on flesh and himself cried for His blessed mother. We have a God who embodied our laments on Good Friday as He suffered outside the city in the God-forsaken wasteland of your sin: the cross. And, though He walked through the valley of death and suffered under the immutable law’s condemnation on sinners, He walked out of the grave on Easter morning, which is a real Christmas miracle! For, as He rose, He muted, silenced, the immutable law of death, and promised for the sake of His steadfast love, to redeem us from the tyranny of Satan. This is the promise we cling to and cry for. To lift from Samwise Gamgee’s profundity, our Jesus is coming and will take all that is sad in this world of immutable sin and make it come untrue. All that is sad and evil and deadly in this world will be damned to hell forever. And Christ will reign. And the only thing immutable will be the Lamb on the throne, your life, and the songs of the angels. Even so, come Lord Jesus.