ADVENT 17 / Pessimism and Fatalism and Hope

This year, for the four weeks of Advent, we are doing the #RendTheHeavens devotion at both The Featherblog as well as Psalm 10 Ministries.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV)

I am a pessimist. And a fatalist.

Some things … are inescapable. Injustice for one. Inequality for another. The world is a fundamentally cruel and unfair place. Everything I have lived, all that I have seen, tells me this, and nothing in my experience suggests otherwise, though I have seen hints and glimpses of another world.

I know this makes makes me a bad modern. To be modern is to believe in hope for a brighter future, one not bound in any way to past or our nature. To be modern is to believe people can be changed, and while I have seen changes in individuals, I also believe human nature — because human beings have an essential nature inherent to our being — cannot be changed. And the promises of the modern world — abundance, autonomy, progress — have not changed our natures.

Maybe being a pessimist and a fatalist … makes me a bad man. A terrible human being. One far too willing to countenance injustice and cruelty and violence. It’s true. I am generally not bothered by the injustice of the world. I don’t much care to change it, since that desire often time wrecks more violence and injustice than what it seeks change.

I just don’t believe we, as human beings or as people of God can fundamentally change the world, or ourselves, in any meaningful way.

But this unjust, unfair, unequal, violent world is not all there is and not all there will be. There is a promise. Of a different world. One in which we don’t have to struggle, as individuals or as communities of people, in and with and under our sin.

We cannot make that world. If we could, this ministry … there’d be no need for it.

We cannot remake the world. We cannot remake ourselves. That is not our calling, and it is not within our power. At best, in the midst of this dissolving creation, which has been cursed and corrupted with sin from top to bottom, we live lives of mercy, of kindness, of righteousness, showing all who may see what it means that God has so loved the world.

We love. So that a dying, sinful, wicked world may know what it is to be loved. And what is coming.

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