The Long View

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 NIV

Begin with the end in mind. It’s common advice for crafting a story and even better advice for crafting a life.

But how do you know where the paths you choose eventually lead, farther down the road? Around the bend beyond which you cannot see? And how do you know what unintended consequences await because of choices that seem so small—so inconsequential!—at the time you make them. I have seen entire careers stopped dead in their tracks because of the fallout from a choice that, at the time, seemed to be made comfortably within the boundaries of the acceptable status quo.

Our actions, our words, even our thoughts, are judged in the court of opinion. But opinions—everyone’s opinions, anyone’s opinions—are shifting things. They are unreliable indicators of what is right and what is wrong. Or, more to the point, of what is good and what is not. To use a couple of small examples from current events, I have felt shamed for not wearing a mask, and I have felt shamed for wearing one. I have felt shamed for not getting a Covid-19 vaccination, and when I did get it, shamed for submitting to it. It just depended on the opinions of whomever I was with at the time. The old saw is true: Opinions are like noses; everybody has one.

If recent events have taught us anything, they have schooled us—quite rigorously, I might add—in the sudden violence with which changing opinions can jerk us around. But I submit to you that most dogmas about what is right and what is wrong are human constructs, and therefore, are unreliable at their core.

I really like the series The Chosen, and Episode 1 of Season 2 is, in my opinion, particularly wonderful—well written and emotionally moving. That episode imagines why John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, might have opened his eyewitness account as he did.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 NKJV

The Greek term John used for “Word” in these passages is Logos, and it has a connotation of being the basis for the way things work. God created everything by using His own Word—the realms we see and those we don’t are His design. Then He demonstrated how His design works in the person of Jesus—His instruction manual. “Follow me,” Jesus said.

I heard a preacher put it this way: Saying one plus one is three is not morally wrong, it just does not work. There isn’t any need to get indignant or angry about it or take a stand against it. Life is like that errant equation. We Christians get all worked up about the wrongness of the things people say and do, instead of reasonably and rationally explaining why some beliefs and behaviors simply do not work. And our explanations ought to be insightful and not lame. “Because God said so,” and “God’s ways are mysterious,” don’t cut it. Our words ought to resonate. But that’s another topic.

Every day, we choose how and what we think, what we say, what we do. In a thousand little things, we can decide to follow that moral compass we call a conscience, or we can decide to doggedly press forward in a direction we know, deep down, has no good end. The choice is always ours, and so are the consequences.

John wrote that there is life in that Logos, Who was with God in the beginning and understands how everything works. Jesus said, “I came to give life, a rich and satisfying life.”

That sounds pretty good to me.

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