There are times when you can’t help but sense God trying to get your attention. Our latest “tap on the shoulder” has led us to lots of discussion about free will and the sovereignty of God. This topic typically provokes one portion of the population to yawn and “turn the channel” and another to jump in with a host of strong opinions. Either response can be understandable.
There has been no lack of debate on this subject over the centuries, so we’re not looking to rehash worn arguments. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a lively discussion. But, what we find most interesting right now is how it seems to be crossing our path in all sorts of unexpected ways.
It started with a short PBS Masterpiece series, “Any Human Heart.” The main character, Logan Mountstuart, drifts through life believing it’s no more than a conglomeration of chance and luck. With that foundation, his choices aren’t based upon much more than what he feels at the moment. It’s no wonder since his dying father counseled him early on to “enjoy good luck when it comes your way. It’s all luck in the end.” The question is “Is life a game of Russian roulette?”
Then there’s the movie we just saw. “The Adjustment Bureau” is a sort of sci-fi romance fantasy based on a short story. The “hero,” David Norris, (played by Matt Damon) accidentally walks in on his frozen boss being examined by strange men in suits. Norris runs and these men chase after him. He soon discovers they are part of the “Adjustment Bureau.” This bureau, run by the “Chairman,” is in charge of making sure humans stick to his plan.
Clearly the “chairman” is a god-like figure and the plot certainly leads to questions of what God’s role is in our lives, how much say we have and if we have any power in how things unfold. It seems to suggest that if you have a strong enough case, you be may able to change God’s mind.
Last night we settled in after a long day, relaxing with Hercule Poirot and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Hopefully it’s an old enough film that we’re not spoiling the plot, but it revolves around the murder of a man who had kidnapped and killed a young girl named Daisy Armstrong. Due to his mob connections, he got off scot-free.
Detective Poirot happened to be aboard the train where the man was murdered, but he discovered most of the passengers were connected to the Armstrong family. One of those passengers, had been Daisy’s nurse. Upon Poirot solving the mystery, Greta explains that she and 11 other passengers determined to kill the kidnapper, essentially because God should have done so. Poirot asks this woman who, interestingly enough, is a missionary, why she didn’t leave justice up to the law and to God. She replies,
“When he creates a hell on earth for those wronged? When priests who are supposed to act in his name forgive what must never be forgiven? Jesus said, ‘Let those without sin throw the first stone.’” In effect, she tells the detective that her lack of sin affords her the right to take justice into her own hands. Is it ever all right to step outside the law in any case?
That brings me to the biography I’m currently reading, “Bonhoeffer.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a part of a group of people who conspired to kill Adolf Hitler to end the diabolical path he was on. After much prayer and soul searching, the attempt is actually made, but fails. He is hung just days before the Nazi’s surrender.
And finally, this morning there was the message we heard in church. During an unexpected and long bout with illness, our pastor experienced numerous lessons that God has been teaching him. He shared that sometimes God uses adversity to lead us into to places we never would have ventured into otherwise. Sometimes God allows hard times for reasons we may not see ahead of time.
Obviously, the themes we’re talking about here are a lot deeper than a simple blog post. But how we each answer the questions brought up in these movies have far-reaching implications for how we live our lives. What say you?