Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. Ecclesiastes 3, verse 15.
Think back to Ecclesiastes 1 where something similar was first said: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” For that verse, you and I discussed how, even in our technologically advanced world, we’re simply re-hashing and improving on inventions from the past. You and I don’t have all the conveniences we do because they magically appeared. People had to come up with an idea and make it. Usually that happens because they’re building on another idea. It reminds me of an exchange between Governor Ronald Reagan and a bunch of college kids. In the late 60s, a group of young people challenged the fifty-something ex-actor, goading him that he was too old to understand their situation. “You grew up in a different world,” said the leader of the college students. “Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers.” Not to be outsmarted, Reagan quickly fired back: “You’re right. It’s true that we didn’t have those things when we were young. We invented them.”
What’s changed? None of the new inventions that make our lives easier today are really completely new. They’re improvements on things already invented, or new twists on older technology. That’s not to say that there is nothing new left to be invented. It’s simply a fact of life. The digital music you listen to on an iPod is the same music you can listen to on your 33 RPMs (that is, if you still have a record player…which reminds me…). The digital player is different, but it’s really nothing more than a faster, improved descendant from what was commonplace when I was a kid. Microwave ovens, plasma TVs, composite roof shingles, improved fabrics, next year’s Audi: you get the picture.
But there’s more.
We are all judged and judgment isn’t wrong. Based on what we’ve done in our lives – what we’ve done and, in part, how we’ve improved on what we did in the past, how we believed based on what we learned – we’ll be judged. God isn’t blind and He knows what we’ve done in our lives. Is He keeping track of it, a big list? Maybe. Would I want to stand up and be judged against that list? Absolutely not! I couldn’t bear standing in front of my maker with all my sins, my shame over them, and my abject guilt laid bare: all knowing that what He could and should do to me for them would be eternal agony. Thank God for His intercession with someone who took my punishment for me.
That intercession is at the crux of faith. Do you accept it or not? Talking about it today is nothing new. Even talking about it on the internet is nothing new. It was long ago done for you because God the Father does and will righteously judge you and me. Our situation is sort of like trying to help an addict. We love them and they love us, yet they still reject when we try to help. We want to help because we love them and because we ought to try to help people we love when they’re in a bind. Yet the substance to which they’re addicted puts up a barrier, making them suspicious, luring them back even when they’ve gotten clean. We can’t tolerate the behavior because it’s harmful, illegal, and any number of reasons. They can’t help themselves but they know deep inside that something isn’t right.
That’s how it is with our sins. You and I are addicted to them and it can be so difficult to kick the habit. Despite that, a just God can’t tolerate anything unholy and whether we like it or not, the crap we do is unholy. That’s not unlike you or me taking that tough love stance with a loved one caught up in drugs. We love them but we can’t tolerate it because it’s unholy destructive. We judge their behavior to be wrong, and we uphold the standard.
And if tough love is loved toughly, usually mercy is involved. Mercy doesn’t mean compromising on the standard: it means upholding it while going beyond it. Mercy is understanding and love; mercy is supporting them, doing what we can for them to kick the habit. Mercy is rehab. Have you ever considered that faith is rehab? Faith helps us kick the habit of our sins while establishing in us the groundwork for future success. It’s the gift from God, the way He imparts his intervention in our lives that was what He did on Calvary. He does the work in us, remakes us through our believing He will do so.
And there’s nothing new about that. It’s how He’s reached out to us since that long ago day in the Garden when a couple of half-naked people discovered they had gotten what they asked for. It’s how faith has worked for millions of people all through history. As long as there is a rock in the sky called “Earth,” it’s how things will remain until the time when God returns in person to finally reset things back to that holy relationship those two half-naked people knew before it all got mucked up.
You and I may not have invented many of the marvels in our modern world…or maybe you did. Me, I know I’m not an inventor. I simply observe, catalogue and comment. In truth, there’s nothing new about that either, and I find some comfort in knowing that people before me have handled similar situations. They did it because God helped them. With that same measure, so can you or me.