I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Keeping Us Divided
I’ve really tried to avoid fixating on everything that I dislike about our new normal. In fact, I’ve grown accustomed to some of the changes now that we’re not as divided by the quarantine. Wearing a mask has become second nature. Working from home and helping my kids as they learn virtually isn’t easy, but we’re getting used to it. Hand sanitizer? Bring it on.
But there’s one thing that I just can’t seem to get used to: the plastic dividers. In schools, at every store, on the faces of healthcare workers, even on stages for news conferences, you see these plastic panels separating people from one another. I’m grateful for the technology used to create these products and keep people safe, especially the essential workers that provide and care for us. But it’s hard to get used to see everything and everyone through these dividers.
The Difficult Barriers
I don’t know why clear plastic bothers me so much. Maybe it’s because, prior to COVID, I only saw plastic barriers in a prison or at a bank, and seeing them everywhere is unnerving. Or, it might be because it’s a symbol of those barriers that are more difficult to work around.
It seems like our world is so divided right now, and not just physically. Issues of gender, ethnicity, and politics dominate the news cycles, making us more aware of them than ever before. It’s not bad for us to be aware of these issues. We should all be fighting against stereotypes, policies, and practices that keep our brothers and sisters in Christ from receiving fair treatment and equal rights. It’s our harsh responses to these barriers that become problematic.
Instead of reacting in ways that can help promote healing and understanding, we become obsessed with making sure people agree with our viewpoint. We point fingers, comment, and say things that only exacerbate the issues at hand. When trying to fight against wrongs that divide us, we often expand the divide with our words and actions. And, worst of all, this divides us even further from God.
Us and God: Divided
When we dig into Scripture, we come to know God. One important lesson we learn is that we don’t deserve God’s love and we can’t do anything to earn His love. Because of sin, we’re separated from God. After Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God made this separation clear:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
Even today, the serpent who encouraged Eve to eat from the Tree still works keep us divided from God. The devil convinces some people that they’re entitled to certain privileges and lifestyles, so they live like they don’t need God. The devil convinces others that they’re unworthy and unloved, so they live like their relationship with God can’t be repaired.
Reconciled through Christ
But that’s where reading Scripture speaks truth to us again. The Bible makes it clear that, while we’re unworthy of God’s love, God loves us anyway and saved us through His son Jesus.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)
Christ’s death and resurrection assures believers that we will be together with God forever. Because of Christ, we’re no longer divided from God. It took Jesus to repair the divide. He bridged the gap for us, something we could never do on our own. The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and brings us back to God, our Heavenly Father.
This is why Christians need not fear death. Rather than being horrified about living out eternity in hell, we are confident that death means our lives are just beginning in Heaven. We’ll be with God forever.
Jesus Unites Us Again
Last month, my grandfather passed away after a long battle with cancer. The last few times I had the privilege of seeing him, it was through the window of the nursing home. Knowing each time I visited him that it could be the last time made the window seem thicker and the divide between us seem wider. You don’t realize how far a window can divide you until you face the reality that the last minutes you have with a loved one will be cruelly separated by glass.
Grandpa’s wish was that his ashes would be scattered over the Mississippi River, a place where he spent a lot of time fishing and boating with family and friends. A limited number of friends and family members gathered recently to fulfill this wish. We boarded a boat and headed out to the middle of the river. At sunset, we joined on the upper deck to say our final goodbyes.
My husband led us in prayer. He reminded us of Grandpa’s hope for eternity with Jesus as he read Job 19:25-26: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. As the sun set and my family wept for our loss, I thanked God for the knowledge that the separation between us and Grandpa, between us and Jesus, is only temporary.
Whether it’s at the time of our own deaths or when Jesus returns, we’re all in for a grand reunion. Because Jesus conquered sin and death, and he’s the one who brings us all back together.
This blog post is written in memory of Eugene Woker (January 6, 1940-September 14, 2020). See you on the other side, Grandpa!