‘Government as a human act of governing oneself and one’s responsibilities and one’s dependents is very different from the modern institution of the State.’ — Alana Roberts, from her film review of The Dark Knight Rises

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When He returns

Anyone who has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice knows what I’m talking about. In spite of all the evidence, or the lack of it, one has been judged guilty of the crime. Tragedy is sown in the mindless inattention to facts, as scarecrows in a melon patch hang uselessly defending nothing from no one. We are satisfied to have reached a verdict that confirms our every suspicion, glad that what we believed all along was proven right. Self-vindication conquers even the mightiest facts. We have won our case.

This is what happens all around us and every day. Sometimes we are the perpetrators, sometimes the victims. It doesn’t matter because it’s usually over trifles. No one is actually sent to the block, nobody is incarcerated. Injustice is unimportant because it is so small, accusation merely a ruse to satisfy our need for self-validation at the expense of another. We think it doesn’t matter. We’ve just trampled someone else’s self image, so that our own can be hoisted higher. We are wise in our own eyes, as we live a lie.

This is what comes of the dictatorship of self. We put kings and queens to death for their alleged vainglory, ourselves presumed innocent, no questions asked. Others are not what they are but what we make them. Light has become darkness, or darkness light, not according to what our eyes tell us, but our hearts. Not the world as it is, but our inner world, is where we choose to live. This can be anything but the truth, but we call the cards. Proud of our personal divine right, we call it the kingdom of heaven.

Every human struggle from day one has been the ceaseless recycling of the same theme. Not what things really are, nothing and no one for its own, their own, sake. All that is outside us is only there for us. ‘All I have is yours, all you see is mine,’ we prefer to remember our personal divine mandate, given by the only god we really believe in, ourselves. This is the state of nature. We are the noble savage. We put kings and priests to death. We always have, and we always will. This is our divine right.

But one day He came from That Other Place, bringing the Message we did not want to hear from One we cannot overcome. We could not paint Him with the colors of our minds, so we ignored Him when, after putting Him to death, He would not go away. We don’t believe in ghosts, nor in mortal men, nor immortal gods, only in ourselves, not yourselves, not themselves, but myself. There is only one piece of evidence that we cannot admit, else our kingdom crashes. He places it before us, yet we will not see.

Sin is not what it is, but what we make it. We snatch the truth out of His hands almost before He lays it down. We hide it quickly somewhere inside the folds of our regal robes or, better yet, we mount it as a jewel in our crown, confirming our authority. Peace at last, the whole world at peace, one world, under us, just as we always dreamed, just as it always seemed. We were right after all. We breathe a sigh of relief. It was a close call. He came, He saw, we conquered. Not who He is, but what we made Him.

Everything goes on as it always has since the beginning of the world. We are still in charge. Nothing and no one can come into our courtroom without our permission. We have won our case, judged aright, vindicated ourselves. He was, He is, and He will be—that man—we are safe from Him. We made even Him do our bidding, be what we said He is. Yes, we even celebrate His birth and capitalize all that pertains to Him. We brand ourselves with His name. But what will we do, if and when He returns?



  1. Wow...ouch! Another good one. This whole blog is amazing: challenging and inspiring , painful and medicinal. I just discovered it yesterday. I've been to your Cost of Discipleship blog, I saw the link on Fr Stephen Freeman's blog and thought, "Is this an Orthodox blog inspired by Bonhoeffer? Could it be?" Anyway...thank you, brother, it has been a great blessing.

  2. Thanks again, brother. Though I am the author of these lines, I still feel a chill when I read this post, especially the words beginning, "But one day He came from That Other Place, bringing the Message we did not want to hear from One we cannot overcome..."
    I am glad that someone has found this blog and appreciates it as I do (again, as if I were not the author, but of course, I am; still, all glory be to Him, the Lord Almighty).