Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth.
One thing Christians have in common with one another is that we have, at least once in our lives, faced at least one of the tough questions. You know the questions. The ones about evil, life, death, hope, faith, God, and those other amazingly tough subjects. At some point in every Christian life, at least one of those questions has bubbled up from deep inside and we were not able to ignore it or to push it aside with shopping, with a football game, or with another drink. No matter how fast we tried to go to sleep that night, the question would whisper to us in ways that we might not even realize, and would dig its way into our dreams, the dreams we remember and the ones we cannot remember the next morning. No matter how fast we run from the tough question, it stays there right behind us, waiting for us to tire just a bit, so it can catch up and sing its song in our ear one more time just as we begin to weaken.
Many people spend a lifetime avoiding their particular question or questions, the ones that chase them. They immerse themselves deep into work, or war, or wealth, into a house, or a hobby, or a habit, and go to any means necessary to avoid having that conversation with mystery, the conversation that will prove how little we know and how dependent we are on something we cannot see, let alone prove.
What makes someone a Christian is that at some point, he or she (or we) decided to pause and to face the question head-on, if only for a moment, and that at some point, the budding Christian found the only sufficient answer to the question was... Jesus.
I’m talking about the belief, both a fleeting and a lifelong belief, a firmly held belief and a dangerously tenuous belief, in the person and nature of Christ as the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. For a Christian, we believe he is the answer to the toughest questions of the world. This passage from John is written to help us, and others like us, remember this.
If your question is about the origin of all things, regardless of how far backward we can see with science, and carbon dating, and archaeology, we who follow Christ will always believe there is nothing that goes farther back than Christ. He was in the beginning with God. And since nothing that ever existed or that does exist or that will exist is independent of Christ, and since all things came into being through him and without him not even one thing came into being, Big Bang, evolution, and dinosaurs are no threat at all. These things only reveal even more of the creative mystery and power of God, but can never replace Jesus Christ as the answer to the origin of species.
If your question is about death or evil… why God would do a certain thing or allow such a thing to happen, I’ve been through that valley myself. But, honestly, the question is flawed. In asking Why God sends pain, the assumption in the question reveals a belief God creates pain and uses it as a form of punishment. In asking Why God would take, by death, a loved one, the assumption in the question reveals a belief God creates death and uses it against us. As Christians, we do not make such assumptions. The answer is that all that has come into being in Christ is life and the life was the light of all people, and the light shines and the darkness does not overcome it. Evil, darkness, and death, though very real, should not be our assumed starting point, especially since we confess and believe Jesus Christ is the answer, the power of life and light in the world.
And if the question is about the other side of death, a Christian humbly hears the whole world came into being through him, yet the whole world did not know him. Christ’s own people did not, and do not, fully accept him. Some try to imagine his grace and believe it true in all things and all people, and to them is given the power to be children of God. That imagination or belief is not a birthright or a choice though, but a gift of one born in a manger, fully human, and fully God, Jesus the Christ.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have glimpsed his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth, and all our desperate questions are answered.
God, help us. Hold our questions. Hold us. Let us feel the presence of a God who isn’t what we fear, but is what we did not expect. Be our love and our light. Amen.