I have often identified with Longfellow as he contemplated Messiah’s angelic announcement. The belfries of Christendom pealed forth the peace message. The poet, however, saw the darksome world around him, a different picture:
And in despair I bowed by head.
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth good-will to men.”
I am writing this in the days following the 2016 national election in the U.S. Only one nation in our tense world! Yes, Longfellow said it!
But, Longfellow’s next lines tell us that he pushed his thoughts upward. There he clinched a whole different perspective—one we could refer to as ‘ultimate truth’:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
“Peace on earth!” We’re longing! And quite aware that this initiative got wrecked a long time ago!
But that IS what the angels sang!
So, what do we hear in that anthem? How do we think of it in our broken world? How can we grasp those lyrics, tune up the grand harp in our souls and play these words and notes in own context in this world? Let’s contemplate.
Restoration! I love that word. It suggests a return to the state or condition of something that has lost its original beauty, design, meaning, or wholeness. Something has happened. First glory, gone. Damage, corruption, dilapidation, disease, destruction—something or someone has stolen, wrecked, or undone the original beauty, design, character, well-being, wholeness.
So, for the human family, created in the image of God, the claim to self-sovereignty over the Creator resulted in a twisted, corrupted, distorted ‘image’. The first couple, by their darksome deed, were barred from Eden’s glory. Through the first Adam’s depravity, the nature of sin distorted the purity of the image of God. From then on, the curses pronounced by the Sovereign, have dogged human life daily.
From the Maker’s perspective
Anselm, an eleventh century church leader, thought about this tragedy of the sabotage of evil from the perspective of the Sovereign. He explained it this way.
Once the created ones made the unthinkable choice, what was God, pure in nature to do with this human family, now turned rebels? To look the other way, to allow evil free course, was to undo the moral order of the entire creation. In fact, it would actually make the Creator immoral. But this could not be – not even remotely possible – because His holy nature through eternity could never be immoral. The issue was huge. Justice had to be satisfied, and the satisfaction must be sufficient to the offense. The offense had come from man (adam, humanity), so reasoned Anselm; this meant the satisfaction must be made by man. But man had nothing to offer God. Even if he always conformed to the will of God, he was only doing his duty, not satisfying justice.
Yet from the divine perspective, if there was no satisfaction of justice and no redemption of man from his awful plight, God’s intention for humankind would be negated. God’s creation would remain corrupted. This was because God’s original intention was that His created ones would enjoy the pure—God himself—the ultimate good. So . . . the satisfaction must come from man, but so massive was the offense — exalting the word of the created over that of the Creator! — that the satisfaction must be greater than anything in the universe, except God himself! What a conundrum!
Who on earth could meet the criteria? From the human family, no answer. Impossible–hopeless. But from the Creator’s perspective, and by His grace, the only answer was set forth: God enfleshed in man, the “God-with-us-Man”, God incarnate in Jesus must live and die for the redemption, the restoration, of the created ones. Only thus could justice be satisfied; only thus could evil be conquered, only thus could the image of God in man be restored!
From humanity’s perspective
Turning to make themselves the ‘god’, our first parents found themselves banished from Eden’s shalom. What do created ones say to a divinely placed flaming sword? The plight—helpless and hopeless, that is, apart from intervention by a power far greater than human ability. The family, “Adam’s race”, was now depraved. Grasping for its own way. To these lost ones, Eden’s shalom was now a haunting glimmer in the past. Cast out and barred from the delight of that garden’s embrace, the human heart was left with a yawning ache. Where was an answer? Where was help, where was hope? Who would redeem?
For this answer, one writer spoke of “the All-Present himself” passing into “the closed circle of the human family”. In fulfillment of inspired prophecy, Messiah was born by divine conception of a virgin. Redemption must come through Messiah. God became man. Redeemer to bring restoration!
John Wesley said,
Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parents. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul.
Restoration—it’s this real in our family!
It was September 8, 2009. Standing beside our nine-month old grandson in a high crib in recovery intensive care, our daughter-in-law, Shannon, the baby’s aunt by marriage, sobbed. Baby Liam had just received a part of his uncle’s liver. This uncle was our son, Shannon’s husband. Brief hours before, the baby, seriously swollen with the toxins of his biliary atresia, was on the edge of leaving us. For months, his parents wrestled, battling anxiety and fear. His mother (of two others — a three and a five-year old) endured sleepless nights over the crib and with babe in arms, rounds of medical consultations, life flights, piercing cries of pain, and, yes, countless prayers and tears!
Months passed, waiting for a cadaver liver; the time window expired, none was available. Life was quickly ebbing away. With motherly love and knowing the urgency, our daughter took tests for giving part of her liver, but medical professionals determined this unadvisable. In the meantime, our son, who lived halfway across the US, boarded a plane for St. Louis with resolve. Deep within him, he arrived at the conviction that, if he could qualify, his baby nephew’s life would not slip away under his watch.
Wondering about the ‘fit’, a surgeon carried the partial liver in an ice chest across the bridgeway from the renowned Barnes-Jewish Hospital to Children’s, and performed the transplant. Absolutely amazing—the medical team found the liver portion a perfect fit for the little one! Within the same hour, back in intensive care recovery, Shannon now understood more clearly the extent and sacrifice of her husband’s surgery (a healthy young guy, but in post-surgery so lifeless). She now saw a nearly normal size baby, immediately ‘alive’, pulsating with life and energy! She sobbed. Life — at great sacrifice — had been restored!
Our family, of course, sees the heroism in our children and their spouses. As we reflect, someway our son Stephen’s sacrifice of love speaks to us of Christlikeness. How could he let this dear little one, without hope, without his intervention, slip away?!
Restoration. Today this little guy is a life-loving bundle of energy—and brilliant! (Yes, Grandpa would say that—but you would agree!). And there is an incredibly grateful family around him.
In a Word
If we were to sum up the message of the holy Scriptures in one word, we may cite the word redemption. The holy God of the holy Scriptures is on mission to redeem and restore the beauty and wholeness of life as He designed it. The brokenness, the ravage that came upon the human family through the sabotage of sin will one day be conquered; the redeemed will be healed, made completely whole again. The Kingdom of the Holy One is coming, even now.
At times we may struggle to understand, to see, to feel this; but as surely as the earth turns, so surely the faithful Father is at work bringing about His unshakeable Kingdom. In the final total establishment of that Kingdom, what was lost in the Fall, will be restored. The curses issued by the Sovereign in Eden will be lifted. Life as the Master Designer first implemented it, this time will be the unchallenged, unaltered reality.
Thus, the highest joys, the incredible well-being of pre-fall Eden will be restored — and more.
The wrong shall fail; right will prevail!
At last, all will be well!
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 Theologians write of the distortion of the Imago Dei (image of God) in humankind.
 Adam in Hebrew, humanity; See Romans 5:12-21.
 For one account of Anselm’s view of Christ’s atonement, see Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Beginnings to 1500 (Vol 1), Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1975, 500-501.
 John V. Taylor, The Primal Vision: Christian Presence Amid African Religion (London: SCM Press, 1963), 125.
 John Wesley, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 2 vols., ed. E.H. Sugden (London: Epworth Press, 1961), 2:225.