Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock today in the most closely watched Senate runoff elections in recent memory. The polls are set to close in Georgia at 7 p.m. EST, which is when ballot counting will begin. To be counted, absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls.
According to the Associated Press, “It’s very possible Americans will go to bed without knowing who won. All indicators point to the likelihood of very tight margins in both races.”
The tightness of today’s runoffs mirrors the sharp political divisions that persist in our country.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was returned to her position with the slimmest House majority in twenty years. Whatever happens today, the Senate will be sharply divided on party lines, as is the larger public. According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Republicans say the Democratic Party has been taken over by socialists, while 78 percent of Democrats say the Republican Party has been taken over by racists.
If we were hoping that the divisions in our country would heal after the 2020 election, it seems we were wrong, at least so far. Clearly, we need a transcendent purpose that can lead to the reconciliation and unity we need so desperately.
The most popular class at Yale
Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos teaches a course called “Psychology and the Good Life.” It is the most popular class in Yale’s three-hundred-year long history. When it was opened to the public, enrollment skyrocketed to 1.1 million students as of March.
According to Forbes, her research shows that to be happy, we need to engage socially with people, express gratitude and appreciation, spend less time on social media, reject the workaholism our culture admires, seek to stay in the moment, take time to decompress and to exercise, and continually work on being happy.
Is this enough for people made for a purpose that transcends this life (John 17:3)?
Many consider All Quiet on the Western Front to be the greatest war novel of all time. German writer Erich Maria Remarque poignantly echoes his personal experience of World War I to depict the broader disillusionment of his post-war era.
In one scene, Remarque describes soldiers on the way to the front lines who pass a stack of new coffins stored in a ruined school building. These coffins have been placed there in preparation for the coming offensive.
This image is true of us all. From the moment of our birth, we begin to die. Like Virgil’s Aeneas, who survived the Trojan War and founded Rome, we seek a life purpose that will define us in the present and outlive us into the future.
But ultimately, we cannot find transcendent meaning without turning to a transcendent source.
A true “theory of everything”?
Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, claims that for the first time in history, scientists have a “theory of everything.” According to theologian Sam Storms, this is “an all-encompassing theory that can account for everything from the subatomic world of particle physics to the galactic expanse of supernovas and black holes.”
Storms summarizes this theory: “Everything in the universe at its most microscopic level consists of combinations of vibrating strings.” Greene states that “string theory provides a single explanatory framework capable of encompassing all forces and all matter.”
However, as Storms notes, “The problem isn’t that Greene and others have gone too far in making this claim. The problem is they haven’t gone nearly far enough!” He then asks, “What makes sense of strings? Why do they exist? If they explain ‘all forces and all matter,’ what explains them?” (his italics).
Consider this “string theory”: “By [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16–17).
Since in Jesus “all things hold together,” doesn’t it make sense to trust him to “hold together” our lives in this world and the next?
How to “receive divine joy”
Every day this year, you and I will be tempted to make anything and anyone but Jesus the unifying Person and purpose of our lives. Some have made politics their purpose, others sexual freedom, others material prosperity, and still others personal happiness.
But as we march past the coffins waiting for us all (if the Lord tarries), remember this fact: “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). Know that his love “surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
To be “filled with all the fullness of God,” first we must empty ourselves of everything else. Theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: “There, where clinging to things ends, is where God begins to be. If a cask is to contain wine, you must first pour out the water. The cask must be bare and empty. Therefore, if you wish to receive divine joy and God, first pour out your clinging to things. Everything that is to receive must and ought to be empty.”
Would you take a moment to empty yourself of everything that is not Jesus? Would you then ask him to fill, control, and empower your life today (Ephesians 5:18)? Would you do the same again tomorrow?
Your spiritual cask can contain water or wine, but not both. Choose wisely.