In an article for Christianity Today, Michael Horton began with a captivating introduction:
“It was confusing to grow up singing both ‘This World is Not My Home’ and ‘This is My Father’s World.’ Those hymns embody two common and seemingly contradictory Christian views of the world.” One sees this world as a wasteland of godlessness, with which the Christian should have as little possible to do. The other regards the world as part of God’s good creation to be enjoyed and redeemed.
Which is correct? Well, to some degree both.
Here’s another one for you: God is sovereign, yet “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
Which one is true? Is God sovereign, or is the whole world under the power of the evil one? It would seem that the answer is: both.
These are paradoxes, things which seem that they should be mutually exclusive or contradictory, but yet both are true at the same time: this world is part of God’s good creation for us to enjoy and redeem AND this world is a fallen broken place, which is not our home, and from which we long to be set free. God is sovereign; God is in heaven and He does all that He wants (Psalm 115:3), AND the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Yesterday I watched the news unfold as multiple shooters entered a holiday party in San Bernardino, California at a center for people with disabilities and proceeded to open fire, killing 14 and wounding 17 more. And like most people, my response was a mixture of grief, sadness and exasperation that events like this have become so commonplace in our country and in our world.
At times like this it’s easy to believe that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, and perhaps harder to believe that God is sovereign over all things. When you see the reports that there have been more mass shootings in the United States than days this year, it’s easy to conclude that this world is a dark place from which we hope to escape – and it’s harder to believe that the world is beautiful and good and that our focus should be on redeeming it for the flourishing of people to the glory of God. And yet, both are true.
These paradoxical statements are at the same time promises. And the hope of Advent is that the true light which gives life to all people has come into the world, and the darkness has not – and will not – overcome it.
Both sides of these paradoxes are true. Both sides of these paradoxes are promises – but only because of Christmas! Only because God became a man in order to redeem us can we have confidence that our redemption is nigh, and that though the darkness is real, the new day will soon dawn and the darkness will be fully abolished.