Apollo 8 took the first picture of Earth from the perspective of the moon’s orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968. It was the first time we saw our planet from this perspective – a perspective more like God’s than we had ever seen. Module Commander Jim Lovell commented on the vast loneliness of space and how we didn’t know how lucky we were to have such community on earth. That’s a perspective we could use today!
Last Sunday the lectionary passage from Job invited us into a meditation on how important perspective is. Job had his perspective on why he was suffering; his friends had theirs; his wife had hers; and now, this week, the book introduces us to God’s perspective on the whole situation.
Many folks find this exposition of God’s perspective troubling. God speaks out of the whirlwind and does exactly what Job last Sunday said God wouldn’t do — contend with Job out of God’s power (23:6). What do hungry raven babies (38:41) have to do with Job’s suffering?
Again, the Book of Job seems to be an extended study on how good it is for us when we broaden our perspective. God claims that Job is speaking “words without knowledge.” I believe that God can truthfully claim that 99.9% percent (and I’m being generous) of what we say are words without knowledge – no matter how many degrees we may be awarded. We simply cannot know the breadth and depth of even someone else’s experience and how it motivates their behavior and beliefs. We make assumptions all the time about each other and then think we “know.” And I think God’s point is that these assumptions INCREASE our suffering.
To trust God in all things, even things that are tragic and beyond belief, is to trust that no matter what happens an essential benevolence is going to resurrect goodness out of the tragedy and nonsense of human existence. That’s the perspective God takes – as THE righteous one, the Holy One, the Alpha and Omega, God’s perspective is bringing redemption where we least expect it. And THAT perspective is good for us.
That’s why Christ had to die – for death seems the one human experience beyond all redemption – so that the resurrecting power of God could be manifested even after physical death. I don’t know what happens when we die, but this story, the Biblical story, and the story of Jesus, all point to a loving God working to bring about resurrection life after every human experience. Whatever that looks like after death, I’m good, because what I’ve seen of it in life has been nothing short of miraculous, inspiring gratitude upon gratitude. THANKS be to God – and God’s perspective!