"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him 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. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." – Colossians 1:15-20
In our fast-paced, globalized, and attention-deficit world, we are consistently searching for something new. In Acts 17, though, we are told that this is not a modern phenomenon: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
I can do this now from the comfort of my home, easily finding anyone in the Internet world (“twitterverse” is one of my particularly favorite terms) that agrees with my conspiracy theories, or someone to rage against on a message board. We are very Athenian. And as John Piper said, “This is not a compliment.”
At a recent staff meeting for the school where I teach high school students, we watched a TED Talk saying that the way we teach needs to change. Rather than drilling the answer into kids, we should encourage creativity and “divergent thinking” (TED Talks, while very interesting, often remind me of the Athenian setting of constantly gathering to find something “new”). While I agree that many forms of education as we know them are stale and underutilize the resources available to us, there is a great danger in this idea, namely that we will create Athenians—or, rather, reinforce our natural Athenian tendencies.
I can see this in the way that my mind works. I tend to drift in and out of encouragement, depression, excitement, laziness, diligence, and a variety of other emotions. In all honesty, as I write this I am most acutely fighting a streak of discouragement. When I am not encouraged in the gospel, I can have the tendency to cheer on ideas that lead to divergent thinking.
This is sin, or more specifically, idolatry. If only I can find a way to be celebrated for my creativity, find the cool thing before anyone else (this is the closeted hipster within me), or produce something meaningful, then I will find joy. These are lies that I believe. Do my students, my neighbors, or I need new ideas, new answers, or “divergent thinking?” No. We need Colossians 1.
Imagine if the homepage of every website or the headline of every newspaper read, “Jesus is King” or “God is reconciling all things to himself through the cross of Christ.” We would be tempted to say that this would be boring – always hearing the same message in every arena and in all forms – but this is what God proclaims in creation and in the Word. Every “new” solution or answer is dishonest and denies reality.
I would love to write those articles or create those webpages. They would give me a chance to practice 2 Corinthians 10:5, taking “every thought captive to Christ,” to bring my thoughts and the events of history in line with reality. My article about the cross-country meet I was at yesterday, titled “Jesus is our Champion,” would be about how our desire for sports and contests is really a reflection of our longing to see the true champion return. Or, an article about a drive-by shooting, titled “God is both Just and Justifier,” could tell of God’s anger at sin as well as his grace, compassion, and sadness for both the suspect and the victim, with the reminder that this is not our home. These articles would allow us a chance to dwell upon the preeminence and supremacy of Christ in all aspects of life.
God has created amazing diversity and given us millions of gifts for us to enjoy and with which to create. All of that is not for us to neglect and circle the wagons, nor to create a world of a million divergent, “coexisting” answers. We must not neglect that all of this was made by, through, and for Jesus. He is the answer by which all of our divergent experiences converge and give us joy.