Pastoral Reflection 5.31.15

Pastor Reflection 2 Peter 3:1-10

The optimist and pessimist are both wrong

What’s the right way to view life as a Christian?  Is it to be viewed as the optimist, who says “Look on the bright side!  Things are good.  You ought to be happy and grateful.”  Or is it perhaps the despairing pessimist, who says “why would you say this life is good?  It is a dreary dream that I can hardly see the worth in living.”

As I study this week’s passage, I’m struck by the fact that God’s truth and His coming return speaks to everyone and challenges all to reconsider their own flawed perspectives.

To those who tend towards optimism, God’s word reminds us of some sobering truths: the world is broken. Our comfort and “feeling good” about life is often done at the expense of others. The world is not so great. In many ways it is awful. There are atrocities and war breaking out every day, and the good left undone is so evil that it will one day be destroyed by fire. Jesus indeed has loved us and has begun to make things new, but He will also return to judge, and as we see, that judgment will come by fire.

These are hard words for a culture in which we’re always told to look on the bright side. But if this view bothers you, you must hear it, and allow it to breed urgency in you and engage with the darkness of the world.

If, however, despair of life is all too familiar to you, perhaps this brings relief. As someone who suffered frequently from depression for most of my life, it was often discouraging when I was implicitly or explicitly told as a Christian that “life is good, Jesus loves you, why don’t you just get happier?” It was years later that I realized that my feelings about life were in some sense justified.

God’s kingdom is already but not yet. To pretend that Jesus has already restored creation and our relationships is a lie of convenience that allows us to hold on more tightly to this life, and perhaps try to forget our sins, and deny the fact that there are those who silently suffer by our negligence and at the hands of others.

But perhaps this is not you today?  Maybe you are in despair today and I have made you feel worse. Do not go there! The gospel is precisely hope understood within this horrible predicament.  Jesus walked among the broken and weak and weary, forgiving sin and reversing the effects of the fall. Despair is justified in part, for there are indeed things to despair of, but Jesus is making all things new!

Friends, let’s strive together this week to avoid empty optimism or hopeless pessimism. Remember that He returns to judge the world.  Remember also that He is making all things new!

In His Grace,

Mike Hong