A World of Stark Contrasts: Beauty and Ugliness

May 15, 2023

I read a story on beliefnet.com about a Methodist Church that set up a disaster relief ministry. After a disaster they brought two Blue Bird buses to pick up what would turn out to be 18 evacuees. When they stopped for gas the owner of the gas station saw the people’s faces and knew they had been through the hurricane. He paid for all the gas in both buses.

The evacuees hadn’t eaten a hot meal in over two days. The pastor took them to a close-by restaurant and told them to “order up” whatever they desired. The gas station owner happened to show up and visited with the people. Then he paid the entire bill for all 27 people. But that was not all, he also said seeing as he seemed to be at the right place at the right time twice for these people, he cut a check to the church for $2,500 to help get these evacuees on their feet. God is so very, very good.

We see the sun reflect off a body of water and are in awe of the beauty of the way the light and its colors play on the water’s surface. Yet, we know that beauty can just as easily bring destruction and death when the flood waters rage. We see an old man and a young boy playing peek-a-boo and enjoy their chance meeting. That night we read another sickening story of child abuse. We see two teenagers on a date. Their smiles and youthful exuberance are so charming that we forget for a moment the plague of drugs, alcohol, suicide, and pregnancy that has descended on too many of our youth.

Our world is full of vast contrasts of beauty and ugliness. When Jesus and his disciples gather in Caesarea Philippi, the disciples can see the beauty of the world. They have seen the power of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing on the crowds. He asks them who he is, and it is Peter who confesses what they hoped beyond hope was true, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God” (Matthew 8:29).

Jesus praises Peter for recognizing and confessing what God has revealed to him. But this beautiful moment is quickly shattered when Jesus explains what being the Messiah will mean, that he must suffer and die in Jerusalem, and on the third day be raised from the dead.

Peter objects to the ugliness of this Messianic prediction. The world defines its messiahs as superior political rulers, who lead powerful countries, with mighty armies, and high standards of living. Are we like Peter, wanting a messiah to be strong, not weak? Powerful, not dead?

By going to the cross, Jesus is reinterpreting history in a radical way. Jesus is revealing that great kings and presidents come and go - Herod, David, Caesar, Washington, Lincoln, Trump, Biden - but the messiah must be more than a political leader. The messiah must suffer to redeem the world from its sinfulness, and reveal that God is present in our lives when our world turns ugly.

For when our world turns ugly, when the flood waters destroy, when there is child abuse, when our marriages crumble, our children’s lives are broken, we become bankrupt financially, emotionally or spiritually Jesus is there. Faith in Jesus can redeem the ugliness of the world.

Jesus has completely changed the way the world interprets history, as we constantly question the limits of power, fame and fortune. He has changed the way we live our lives as we realize we are still a child of God, in spite of failure and sin. He makes us people, full of hope and joy, even when our world turns ugly.

To recognize the power of such weakness, to answer the call to be servants in Christ’s name, to worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is to respond to divine revelation. For like Peter, we realize we cannot make such a confession based on wisdom and lessons learned in the world. The ugliness and beauty of the world shift like the sands of the desert. To confess Christ is to allow God’s Holy Spirit to reveal where love, hope, forgiveness, meaning, and purpose truly are - In Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Are you tired of the ugliness of life? Have you endured as many days full of darkness as you care to? Let Jesus Christ into your life in a new way today so His light will shatter the darkness. When was the last time you accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? How would it change your life if you confessed him Lord and Savior every single day? (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).