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Changed By Glory

"And we all… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." II Cor. 3:18

Month

January 2015

The Everyone in Everyone

Note: View Discretion Advised 

backstrom

Backstrom, a new crime drama from FOX, follows a cynical, disgusting, somewhat comical, and brilliant detective in the city of Portland bearing the name of the show. My wife and I watched the pilot, one, because we enjoy crime shows and two, because the role of Backstrom is played by Rainn Wilson, better known as “Dwight” from The Office.

I don’t normally search for things that are very deep in a show like this, but a couple of quotes from Backstrom stood out to me as important from a Christian, Gospel-centered worldview. Clearly these quotes are significant to the character development of Backstrom and are meant to give the viewer an insight into his mind. There is one quote in particular that drew my attention. But before I get to it, I will give a little background….

Backstrom is cynical. He shows up at a crime scene and begins to make very confident and harsh judgments about people, much to the exasperation of his optimistic, psychology-major partner. And at one point after he makes a number of stinging accusations against a suspect prior to there being substantial evidence, his partner declares, “You see the worst in everyone!”

Backstrom responds flippantly, “I see the everyone in everyone.

Such a line is meant to show just how deep his cynicism and negativity run, with hints of emotional baggage from his childhood. I am no prophet but I estimate that this is meant to be the beginning of his character trajectory. The writers will pull him over time out of his negative estimation of mankind to the point where he will have to admit that there is good in some, if not in everyone. Again, that is my guess, and considering how cliché network television tends to be, I would stake money on it.

As soon as those words escaped Backstrom’s mouth I thought of just how biblical what he said was. In fact, Jesus Christ himself would have agreed with this statement!  For as the Apostle John records, when the crowds began to be attracted to Jesus,

“Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25 ESV)

Jesus did not see the worst in everyone, he saw “the everyone in everyone”. He knew that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

Was Jesus a cynic like Backstrom? The answer is no. Jesus is a realist. Jesus knows what is.

Furthermore, while Jesus saw “the everyone in everyone” and Backstrom saw “the everyone in everyone”, the trajectory of that truth is very different in the case of Jesus’ story.

Backstrom is being shown by his words to be an extreme cynic. This provides the foundation for his character to develop, growing in confidence in his fellow man, seeing that there are exceptions to his rule.

But Jesus came precisely because of “the everyone in everyone”. This truth is foundational to the trajectory of Jesus’ story, but that story moves in a completely different direction than Backstrom’s. Jesus story, the Gospel, has a trajectory marked by grace and redemption so that “the everyone in everyone” will not remain what it is.

Jesus came because of “the everyone in everyone” so that every one of his people could have in them that which is uniquely good, namely the unique goodness of Jesus himself. He did not come to draw out the good in mankind, but to give of his goodness so that “the everyone in everyone” would not have the last word.

Jesus is not a cynic. He is a realist. And the reality is that there is an “everyone in everyone” and it is called sin. But Jesus came and as a man was the exception to the norm, he died for those under that norm, and then he rose victorious over it. And by this he set the trajectory for the day when that reality would be no more.

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1:19-22 ESV)

 

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God is not Wilfred

It is not uncommon for art to take shots at God. Perhaps some of the most profound pieces of literature, music, and film are those that really take aim at the idea of God. More than a few films take subtle (or not so subtle) shots at the Divine, usually exalting humans as the ones who are kind and good, who need to be freed to exercise their independence. But more often than not, these attempts to dethrone God reveal that God’s harshest critics don’t really know him.

Last year I watched a film that was very well done called Snowpiercer, written and directed by Korean filmmaker Joon-ho Bong. Please note before you go watch it that it was violent and contained language, but it was clearly one of those films that was aiming to wax eloquent as a parable of mankind’s struggle against the idea of God.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the globe is frozen and devoid of life, a few thousand survivors for nearly two decades have been aboard a self-sustaining train that circles the globe, never stopping. As long as the train keeps moving and all of its systems are functioning humanity survives. The builder of this train, named Wilfred, is viewed as divine, with hymn-like songs written in his honor. He is worshipped as being sovereign and benevolent, at least by the privileged. The train is divided into two classes, the poor crammed into the back of the train and the rich near the front. These people are seen to be in their place by the predestined plan of Wilfred, fulfilling their place in the order that keeps the train going.

The movie centers on the people in the back of the train who want equality, they want to get to the front of the train, to the “divine engine” and take it over. So on an appointed day after much planning, they revolt. In the process they capture one of Wilfred’s cruel lackeys, a pathetic, sycophant of a woman named Mason. And this is where the story gets interesting….

The people from the back of the train are about kill Mason who had been an executor of injustice so many times. But she reasons with them. Up to this point it has been clear that the divine Wilfred, creator and sustainer of the train, sovereign predestinator of everyone on board is Bong’s rendering of God and some aspects of how he is portrayed, though crude, seem to be reflections of the sovereign God of Scripture. It seems maybe this artist is building a convincing case against God, but then words. Words that reveal something very important about Bong’s conception of God.

On the verge of being put death Mason proclaims that “Wilfred is divine! Wilfred is merciful!” So Curtis, the leader of the people from the back of the train says to her, “Call him. See if he’ll save you.”

In the clutches of these desperate people at the back of the train, she responds.

“He won’t come here. He won’t leave his engine.”

Ah. Pause and think about it.

There it is.

Maybe the caricature of God would hold true for the many gods out there. Deities that are echoes of the hissing of serpent in Eden….

But as a Christian I can gladly proclaim, “God is not Wilfred.”

Why?

Because the God of the Bible came to the back of the train so the he himself could lead those captive there to the front of the train.

Mankind had no lack. No want of anything in the universe that God created. But they believed a lie, much like the lie put forth in the movie, that God is not good and that he is holding out something good from us. This plunged mankind into bondage to sin and death. But God promised that what he had made would not remain like this. He would send his Son to the back of the train, to suffer with all the rest and for all the rest. He would take the punishment for their rebellion and he would open all the doors all the way to the front of the train where they would enjoy fellowship with the sovereign Lord forever.

Many would watch the movie Snowpiercer and consider it to be so profound. But it is only profound in the sense of how accurately it shows the God satan tells us is there, rather than the God that is there in reality. The God that is is indeed the sovereign predestinator of all things. He is the Creator. He is high above his creation. But he is also the God who in love came to his creation to rescue, to redeem, and to do so not by just “paying a visit” but by humbly suffering and dying and rising so that he could lead a host of captives to his eternal dwelling.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

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