Deep within each of us there is a yearning for everything to be perfect – in ourselves, in our world, in our relationships. Then we would have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to.
500 years ago, Sir Thomas More published his legendary book Utopia, in which he portrayed a perfect island society where everyone lived together in peace and harmony. Even though More’s book was both a work of fiction and a satire, there have been times throughout history when people dared to hope that Utopia might be just around the corner. Until their hopes were dashed by the intervention of harsh reality, turning their Utopian dream into just another nightmare.
Think of the optimism that followed World War 1, the so-called ‘war to end all wars’. That was soon blown away by the Great Depression and World War 2. No sooner had that war ended than there was renewed hope that, this time, the world would be a better place with prosperity and a rosy future for all. That too evaporated in the harsh light of reality.
In more recent times there was the hope with which so many greeted the new millennium. For no particular reason, there was a rising expectation that the year 2000 would usher in a newer and brighter world. Twenty-one months later, the horrendous events of 9-11 shocked us all back into the real world.
…the human race is not heading toward perfection. It is heading away from it.
Yet, while things in our world keep getting worse instead of better, we are still being told by politicians, by social scientists, and by many others, that the dream is not dead. It is just a matter of human progress. We can build our own Heaven on Earth. Hope on … for Utopia can still be ours!
Why? Because the only alternative is a world without hope. And a world without hope is a fearful prospect.
Yet the inescapable truth is that the human race is not heading toward perfection. It is heading away from it. Our world is not arising out of chaos. It is descending into it. Perfection is where we came from. Not where we are going.
In the Beginning, when “God created the heavens and the earth” – filling this world with His life and making it ours – everything was perfect. Without exception. God made it and nothing had marred it …yet. Neither was it His intention that it should ever be marred, but that it should remain perfect forever.
Yet, from that tragic moment in the Garden of Eden, when the will of man cut across the will of God, that glorious perfection was lost. Every creature, from man down, was separated from its Creator. The descent into corruption and chaos had begun.
That was such a long time ago, yet our ‘Paradise Lost’ has never been regained. In fact, the more we humans strive to prove we can be like God and create our own heaven on earth, the more we prove we cannot.
“But,” you may say, “the world is still here and we are still here. God has not wiped us all out, and neither have we destroyed ourselves. Maybe we haven’t done such a bad job of it and we still can turn it all around!”
Yet the fact that we and our world even continue to exist is not due to man’s abilities and ingenuity, nor even to his survival skills – but to the love and mercy of God. He has never ceased to carry us on His heart, and He still wants to live with us forever in a bond of love.
Jesus died, not to make us good people, but to make us God’s people.
So, instead of giving up on the human race, God has intervened at every possible point throughout our history, seeking to make Himself known and to draw us back to Himself. Even to the extent of sending His only Son into this world to make a way back to God. A way back to perfection.
Not the ‘pie in the sky’ perfection that Christians expect will take place when they die and go to Heaven, but the perfecting that begins from the moment you yield your life to Him. The apostle Paul described it in a most beautiful way:
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Being a Christian is not about being good. It is about being godly. Jesus died, not to make us good people, but to make us God’s people. Hence, the ones who are being perfected by God’s Spirit are those who, having initially responded to God, have also kept on responding to Him. They are being perfected, not by their own efforts, but by God’s Spirit.
So, while this world and its people move further and further away from perfection, God is re-creating it in the lives of those who give themselves to Him. That this amazing miracle is taking place here and now, in this world, has nothing to do with so-called human progress. But it has everything to do with the work of God’s Spirit in the lives of those who give themselves to Him to be His people.
Yet there’s more. For the time is soon coming when those who are now being perfected by God will be seen and known for who they are. Then – incredible though it may seem – the entire Creation will be released back into the perfection it lost when Adam fell. This too has been eloquently described by the apostle Paul:
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. …the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Then instead of ‘Paradise Lost’ we will have ‘Paradise Regained’!