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How One Flight's Tragedy Teaches Us About Life's Uncertainty

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One person died and more than thirty others were injured after a Singapore Airlines flight hit severe turbulence this morning. The jet was headed to Singapore from London when it was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Even though flying is statistically the safest form of travel, all of us who fly read stories like this and shudder, knowing the deceased person could have been us. It could one day be us. What is true of air travel is true of every other dimension of life on this fallen planet: we are not in control of our lives. To the contrary, we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

This fact amplifies yesterday’s focus on the urgency of living in the power of the Spirit so fully that the Spirit changes us and changes the culture through us. We have only today to live for God in the power of God. Eternity beckons for us all.

A story making headlines today illustrates our theme powerfully and poignantly.

Why Dennis Quaid’s New Movie Grieves Me

A few months ago, Dennis Quaid told People magazine that he returned to his Christian roots some years ago in the midst of an addiction battle. He even recorded an album titled Fallen: A Gospel Record for Sinners.

As a result, I was grieved when I learned that he is starring in a new horror movie in which, according to one reviewer, his costar is in “several scenes featuring full nudity.” (I won’t name the actress or the film or link to its content or reviews.)

When Christians act in ways that violate Christian beliefs, our secularized society is confused and misled even further. Then I looked more closely at Quaid’s interview with People. He tells us that amid his addiction struggle, he began rereading the Bible, as well as the Bhagavad Gita, the Qur’an, and other religious texts.

According to Quaid, “All of us have a relationship with God, whether you’re a Christian or not.” He says we’re all looking for “the joy in life, which is our gift, actually, the relationship with God that we all have.”

My purpose is not to disparage Dennis Quaid, but to respond to two related issues this story raises, both of which are pervasive among evangelicals and vitally relevant to our cultural influence (or lack thereof).

“There Is Salvation in No One Else”

“Faith” is not an objective reality. We don’t “have faith”—we have faith in something or someone.

And the object of our faith is the crucial determiner for our faith’s validity and agency.

You can have faith that you are on the right road home, but if you’re not, your faith won’t get you to your destination. You can have faith that you’re taking the right medication, but if you’re not, your faith can make you sick or worse.

Our “post-truth” culture’s dogmatic (and contradictory) insistence on tolerance leads many to applaud the idea that “all of us have a relationship with God, whether you’re a Christian or not.” But Jesus disagreed, stating of himself: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

His first followers said of him, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, my emphasis).

Our lost culture also separates Sunday from Monday, the spiritual from the secular, and religion from the “real world.” It is therefore unsurprising that professing Christians can be involved in “secular” activities that contradict their “spiritual” beliefs.

For example, Scripture forbids public nudity, teaching that “women should adorn themselves in respectable attire, with modesty and self-control” (1 Timothy 2:9; cf. Matthew 5:28). But the pervasiveness of pornography and adultery among self-professing Christian men is just one tragic example of the way so many separate their Sunday religion from their Monday lives.

“The World Will Be Amazed and Astonished”

We cannot do the same thing and expect different results. As New York Times columnist David Brooks noted, “We’re not going to solve our problems at the same level of consciousness on which we created them.”

Brooks cites the work of Black theologian Howard Thurman, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Sr. who had a strong influence on the activism of his son, Martin Luther King Jr. According to Brooks, “Thurman reminds us that when networks of relationships in a society are broken and unjust, national transformation must flow from a tide of personal transformations.”

Such holistic transformation is truly possible only by the agency of the Holy Spirit. As Pentecost Sunday reminded us two days ago, the first Christians were “filled with the Holy Spirit” on the day of Pentecost and “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). These were languages they did not know but could now use to share the gospel with people from fifteen different locales now gathered in Jerusalem for the holiday (vv. 8–11).

The people who heard them were understandably “amazed and astonished” at the miracle they witnessed (v. 7). Br. James Koester of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston comments:

The wonder of Pentecost is not that people suddenly spoke in foreign languages. The wonder of Pentecost is that people suddenly spoke in the language of God, the language of compassion, unity, and understanding. And like those early disciples, the gift to speak the language of God is ours for the asking.

Then he adds:
“When we truly are people of the Spirit, we will be people of compassion, unity, and understanding, speaking the language of God, and the world will be amazed and astonished, once more.”

Whose “language” will you speak today?

Tuesday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“To be a witness means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” —Madeleine L’Engle

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ralph Orlowski / Stringer
Publish Date: May 21, 2024

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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