The Technological Drive for Perfection
Ever since I was a little boy, I have always been fascinated by the steady march forward of technology. I used to love going to the school library and picking up a copy of Popular Mechanics to see what new gadget, or computer, or AI system was being developed. I would play with electronics kits and build my own radios. Even when I was in the Army, flying drones, it was like being a kid again. I mean, not only did I get to play with robots, but they were flying robots! How cool is that?! And in my short lifetime, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, unimaginable to previous generations.
From facial recognition technology to global climate modeling, and from GPS to automated manufacturing; machines are able to do incredibly complicated work with an efficiency and within tolerances unmatched by any human being. In fact I learned this week that our most accurate atomic clock, the strontium optical lattice clock, is so accurate that it is able to measure subtle dilations of time itself as the clock is placed closer or farther away from the mass at the center of the Earth. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, when you put your hand over your head, because it’s further away from the center of the Earth, it actually travels through time a tiny bit faster than your feet! It’s such an impossibly tiny change, that we don’t perceive it at all. But this clock does! It can literally measure how time itself stretches and crunches when acted upon by gravity.
That’s nuts, right? In another age, if I had said such things, people would assume I was crazy. Heck, you might be wondering about my sanity right now! But that’s how far science and technology have advanced. We are able to measure and create with such precision, and yet almost all scientists agree that our knowledge of the Cosmos and our ability to shape our surroundings through technology has only barely scratched the surface.
The Purpose For Which We Were Created
And yet, with all these technological marvels and scientific advancements, we are still a species consumed by war, slaves to our own appetites, ever on the brink of being destroyed by our own hatred and lust. There is a sharp contrast between the perfection humanity strives for through creativity and ingenuity, and the imperfection we see in our nature. We develop technology in the hope that it will make our lives better, yet we find that it often brings as many problems as it solves. As perfect as we seem to be able to make machines, they cannot fix what’s really broken in the world. They can’t fix us. In fact, nothing we do can. And we’ve tried just about everything. We’ve tried putting our trust in governments, in political parties, in philosophies, in technology, in relationships, in wealth, and in pleasure. And they have all failed to get to the root of the problem because the root of the problem is at the very core of our being.
When we read the opening passages in Genesis, we find that this wasn’t always so. As God said in Gen. 1:27, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”1 And in v. 31, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
God created us with perfection in mind, His own perfection, the perfection of the Son. This is most beautifully stated in the great statement on the Incarnation from our reading in John 1 tonight,
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Everything that is good, everything that is beautiful, and everything that is loving in the world was created through the Son. Christ Himself is the creative Word of God, and whenever we try to recreate perfection, whether it is through art, or poetry, or music, or philosophy, or religious expression; we do it because deep in our hearts we are being called upon by the Holy Spirit to fulfill that great purpose for which we were created: which is to reflect Christ’s perfect love in our hearts and in every area of our lives.
Christ’s Anticipating and Perfecting Grace
But when sin entered the world, it corrupted us. It corrupted our bodies – bringing death into our lives; it corrupted our hearts – the deepest seat of our longing and desire; and it even corrupted our reason – our very ability to perceive the character and nature of God through His Creation. We were no longer able to perceive Him or the virtues He created for us to possess through reason alone, and every attempt on our part to grasp who He truly is, to grasp perfection itself, falls short.
This is why the Word became flesh and lived among us, so that by His illuminating light which pierces every darkness, we might see His glory, believe in Him and be filled with His grace which brings us the truth we have failed to grasp on our own. This is why the Incarnation, the moment when the Word became flesh, is so important to the Christian faith. It is through the Incarnation of Christ that our wills and our reason are restored, so that we may perceive the goodness of God, and being moved by the Holy Spirit, answer His call to repent and be saved.
As Titus 2:11-13 tells us, “11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
When we repent, receiving His grace by faith and turning away from our selfish desires and all the things which distort the Image of God in us, He begins that great work of healing us and restoring that reflection in us. He restores the ability and the call to perfectly reflect His love.
As the Apostle John later wrote in his first letter, 1 John 4:16-19, “16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.”
And the best, most perfect example of God’s love was most fully revealed to us over 2,000 years ago; when a virgin mother laid her infant son in a feeding trough on a cold winter’s night in a tiny village, nestled in the center of a backwater province of the Roman Empire. It’s this moment that we celebrate tonight through our songs and worship; and it is His death on the cross and His bodily resurrection to free us from sin and death that we proclaim as we partake in the Lord’s Supper together.
(1) All quoted scripture is from the NRSV, unless otherwise noted.
First Delivered on Dec. 24, 2019 - Cortez Church of the Nazarene, Cortez, CO.
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