We live in a broken world. We see evidence of it everywhere. I’ve said it—we’ve all said it—the world is broken. We derive some sort of comfort from this affirmation—comfort that this is not how things were meant to be, a comfort that gives us a strange form of hope that the violence, danger, and anger screaming at us from the news is not all there is.
But we cannot escape the sense of darkness. The diseases we cannot cure, the hostages we cannot save; the complicated wars we cannot disentangle, and the tensions we cannot diffuse. Another shooting, another body count, another lifeless form on the newsreel; millions without homes, millions without work, millions fleeing from, fleeing to, looking for a place to rest; the latest story of abuse or child-killing, the latest drug overdose, the latest act of terrorism. The headlines stream on. There seem few places to hide.
We cannot escape the confusion of innocent lives lost or the political and social situations too long-strung or complicated to fully understand. We lose loved ones—to death or to estrangement. We see the darkness of our world, the darkness of sinful beings grasping for power, for vengeance, for wealth. Perhaps we see this darkness in ourselves—and it terrifies us. It seems as though the state of our world can hardly become worse.
But there is nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes says. From the beginning we have been killing, deceiving, doing whatever it takes to get ahead. For millennia, mankind has been concocting new ways of evil and imaginative forms of torture. Wars are not new. Refugees are not new. Abuse is not new. Evil, though it may continue to shock, horrify, or numb us, is not new. We live in a broken world—as mankind has lived since being expelled from the Garden.
How many times have you heard this ramble? When was the last time you heard someone bewailing the state of our world or preaching to the evil that swirls about the globe?
I find that typically in the Christian world, this message is used as evidence of the sinfulness of humanity (which it is), calling people to seek salvation. We’re called either to withdraw from the world, so we aren’t tainted by its darkness—or to go out into the world to do what we can to reach its helpless state. This is all fine and good—and perhaps deserves a longer discussion at another time.
But what I find in these sorts of conversations or messages is that we lose sight of the world as God’s good creation. Yes, the world is broken and dark and full of evil. But it is still the handiwork of God, its splendor still proclaims his glory, and it still offers abundant delights.
The majestic mountains, the thundering waterfalls, and the incomprehensible diversity and intricacy of the flora and fauna still declare his praises. The rich history and uniqueness of cultures and civilizations which offer us wide ranges of music, art, dance, story, humor, and tradition speaks to the creativity of humankind. The pink-hued birth of the dawn, the silent stillness of the snow-blanketed earth, the bubbling laughter of a child, and those moments of transcendence when we can’t help but say “God is here” promise that He has not abandoned us. Stories of good Samaritans and generous benefactors, of united communities and peaceful reconciliation, and of the gracious work of God to bring healing to someone’s heart buoy our hearts, whispering to us that this world is not all darkness and gloom.
There is still cause for joy and laughter, for excitement and discovery, for reward and fulfillment on this earth. From the beginning, we have found beauty and felt awe and derived satisfaction from the work of our hands. From the beginning, there has been love, new life, and adventure.
What a different picture of the world this offers!
It’s easy to stray toward one of these extremes— either to see only darkness and evil, reject the world, and surrender it to doom, or to see only the light and goodness of humanity and lose sight of the rebellion and destruction of sin. The reality is somewhere between the two. The world—and the human beings that fill it—are not all evil or all good. We must hold in tension these two portrayals of the world because, in truth, to veer too far to one side or the other is dangerous. As Christians, we can stand in the gap between these two extremes. We can acknowledge the world as the twisted, rebellious, evil place that it is—and simultaneously affirm the world as the beautiful creation of God, filled with people he loves. We can walk out into the world in wisdom and with hearts open wide to the people and creation God is working to redeem.