Probably the greatest single lie ever bought by humanity is the claim that man is the rightful center of all things. Self-actualization is the highest goal. Man should then do what feels right or what is natural to him, so that he achieves the best life. This was the garden lie. The lie that says, “write your own story, for there is there no grand over-arching story to bring you meaning.” Humanity has been tainted ever since; warring with one another, killing, maiming…all in the name of self.
Sadly, as often happens, the culture that has bought the lie has shaped the church, rather than the church shaping the culture. We’ve taken this same old lie and christianized it. We even have a verse to back up our claim. There could not be a more clearer example of ignoring context than when most people quote Jeremiah 29:11. There, God states He has a plan for Isreal, to give her prosperity, hope and a future. It is a great promise, please do not misunderstand. The problem that arises is that so many churches have misinterpreted and misapplied it. Instead of a grand promise made to Israel (the Church), it has become the christian version of the garden lie. Man is the center. God is the cosmic genie, dispensing gifts to those who please Him. He is nothing more than an impersonal, mechanical force that mysteriously governs the universe. The verse has been stripped from it’s context and thus it’s communal aspect. Individuality is assumed over and above community. The message becomes, God will make you fat and rich. The allure of following God is not because He is God, but because He’ll make you prosperous. That is the bill of goods we (I used that term lightly) are selling in a lot of churches and we wonder why the church looks like the culture and not the other way around (sometimes I wonder if these gatherings can even be called “churches”).
Is this all we, as christians, can offer the world? Nothing but a new twist on an old lie? I strongly reject the philosophy the church has adopted. The Bible is clear about what the truth is. God is sovereign over His creation and thus sovereign over the story unfolding within it. The redemption story is His story. God is speaking as each new day unfolds. New chapters are written. He is the author and we are merely actors in His drama (I am affirming God’s sovereignty over and above man’s choice. While we make “choices” in this life that we are responsible for, mysteriously, God is behind it all, writing the story of our lives). You see, God has a plan and in His plan, His people have hopes and futures. They have riches beyond comprehension. The difference is that the story is about God, not humanity. He grants us certain parts to play. All of us have supporting roles, none are given leadings roles.
The glorious truth of the Scriptures is that God has assigned us parts, not plans. We have roles to play, not story-lines to write. Perhaps, with this perspective, we might suffer better, or rejoice better or just love God and people better. What if we were content with even having a part. Would life seem more simple? Would we take our lumps with joy as James commands? Would the world take notice? Would the real christians shine and the mediocre come to true faith? There is great importance that we get this right. The world needs us to get it right. Jesus is counting on us to get it right! The story is about God and His glory. Our job is to know our role and act our hearts out for God and His Kingdom!