Not the Way It's Supposed to Be
By Pastor Aaron Adame
I read a book several years ago now, a book that I not only enjoyed reading because of the author’s beautiful and creative way of writing, but a book that radically shaped the way I thought about the effects of sin on life in our now fallen world. The book is called Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. I recently was reminded of this book in light of our recent pandemic of the COVID-19. His thesis in the book is to show that sin (and its effects) is ultimately a disruption of God’s shalom. The word shalom in the Hebrew language means peace, but it’s more than peace. It is a condition of blessed peace and prosperity. It’s a word that gives the idealistic impression of how life ought to be—as God made it to be.
When you turn on the news and drive on the empty roads and freeways, you get the sense that something isn’t right. Something isn’t the way it is normally, the way it is supposed to be. When you go to the store and everyone is looking at you as if you are a threat to their health, when you can’t sit in a restaurant or have friends over or send your kids to school or go and worship with your church family—you know something isn’t right!
Please excuse me as I turn into Captain Obvious—but everything isn’t right! Nothing is as it should be. It’s not how God made it! I know this to be true, as do most of you, from reading the pages of Holy Scripture. But at this very moment, everyone knows it in light of their experience with COVID-19. Even what the world has settled with as normal and good has suddenly gone bad. The world has been reminded, at this very moment, that life is fractured at best.
Friends, from the beginning, when our original parents fell into sin and rebellion, the world broke. Life as they knew it, as it was supposed to be lived in God’s shalom, was gone forever. The life of peace, innocence, and relational connectivity was instantly replaced with hate, fear, corruption, selfishness, pride and relational dysfunction. Disease appeared as if out of nowhere—and we are all getting a palpable reminder of this truth, that bitter truth that makes your stomach sick and burns your throat going down. And finally, along with this came dying and death as the final blow to Adam’s fall. But before physical death drew first blood, spiritual death occurred. Mankind became like empty shells, having the appearance of life on the outside but spiritually dead and empty within. Nothing was the same.
It was in this world, this disease-stricken world that God came! Oh, the glory of the incarnation is that God didn’t leave His creation to suffer final corruption. But instead wrote Himself into His own story, as C.S. Lewis put it. He, the God who sat on the throne of heaven, the God who dwelt in the beauty of holiness and purity, took on flesh (Phil 2). He entered into the fray to save what was lost. His plan was not to save the world from outside, but from within. He smelled the stench of mankind’s sin. He tasted the bitterness of life in a fallen world. He suffered fatigue, pain, loneliness, isolation, hunger and thirst. He saw heartbreak, the heartbreak of people whose daily activity was characterized by a disruption of shalom. And in all of this, He didn’t run, He didn’t hide, He didn’t condemn. Instead, He had compassion and love.
The climax of the story of the life of Christ is rather ironic because the climax of His life is His death. And His death was not some ordinary death; it was an atoning death. Because Jesus lived a sinless life, perfectly walking in the will of God and in obedience to His Word, He was perfectly suited to serve as our substitute. The price was ours and He paid it because only He could. His death dealt a death blow to the powers that stood against us (the world and the devil) and worked within us (the flesh and our fallen nature).
And when He rose again three days later, He gave proof to us that through Him, life as it was meant to be lived is possible again. That death, disease, and the devil don’t have the final word—the blood of Christ does! His blood speaks a better word! In His kingdom, there is no COVID-19. There is no cancer or betrayal or loss of job. There is no depression or guilt and shame. There is only God and His shalom. This is our only hope. The New City Catechism puts it this way: Q: What is our only hope in life and death? A: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Plantinga, Cornelius. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: a Breviary of Sin. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999.