The Essence of Tragedy

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This post is inspired by a recent conversation I had with a friend in a Literature and Philosophy class about his assignment to write a paper about the essence of tragedy in the context of various works the class has read this semester.

I’ve been so inspired by that conversation as to write what I believe is the essence of tragedy, and how it has changed from the era of the Greeks until now.  Tragedy, as we know it, started as a genre in Greek drama.  Every Greek tragedy included a protagonist, often a hero type, struggling against fate.  Most of these tragedies involved a prophecy which the protagonist attempted to avoid, ultimately fulfilling it.  This fall was catalyzed by a fatal flaw, often hubris (pride).  The point of the tragedies, plays like Oedipus Rex, Agamemnon, and Antigone was to cause the audiences to have a feeling of sympathy and reflect intellectually about their world.  Tragedy is thought-provoking because it reveals to us a key aspect of our lives, that we all have flaws.  Greek tragedies never featured hope, because the Greeks did not have hope.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

This verse outlines tragedy.  We were created to experience the glory of God, yet sin pulls us away from that glory, it is the fate that we are tied to, it is our fatal flaw.  Throughout history, people have tried to escape sin, and the death it leads to, but all have fallen.  Not every culture had a name for it, but all humanity knows it.  We see the consequences of our choices and try to change our choices but in the end, they lead us back to the same pit of despair.  The Greeks and other cultures turned their attentions toward building character, wealth, and honor to distract from the futility of life’s struggle.  Those things were somewhat tangible, but they were not satisfying.

This tragedy of humanity was finally given hope at the cross, in God in human form, Jesus Christ.  As he bled and died, he took the tragedy of the world upon him.  That day seemed to be the peak of tragedy, as a man who seemed to be perfect, without flaw, hung dying.  Could there be hope for man?  An outsider looking at just this scene would not think so, but the outsider does not know the whole story.  “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” -1 Peter 2:24  Jesus took that sin upon him so that humanity might not suffer the ultimate consequence of sin, but that was not the end of the story.  “…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”-1 Corinthians 15:4

This is the ultimate joy and hope, the opposite of tragedy.  All who believe in Christ have hope in his resurrection!  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19  This verse is true, Christians, if Christ was not raised from the dead, have no more hope than the rest of humanity, in fact, it means that they suffer for nothing.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead (verse 20).”  Now there is hope on earth for humanity.  One must ask; since hope has been brought to mankind, is there still tragedy?  The answer is yes.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” -Romans 1:28  This is the essence of tragedy, when a person rejects God and the gift of salvation.  A man given the hope of the gospel who rejects it experiences a greater tragedy than the Greeks who did not know of God’s salvation.  The essence of tragedy in the modern world is the opportunity of redemption rejected.

 

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‘Tis the Season for…Humility

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I had just spent about an hour of my time making dinner for my three siblings, and I saw that the dishwasher needed to be emptied.  Huffing a little bit, since it seems like my work would never end, I began to empty the dishwasher, tempted to use my “chef” status as an excuse to make my siblings do it instead.  In this attitude of selfish, unhappy servitude, I was nudged by the Holy Spirit.  I took a deep breath as He brought to mind a sermon I recently heard about the humility of Christ at Christmas.

The Almighty God of the Universe, who according to Revelation 4, has “the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around [His] throne a rainbow that [has ]  the appearance of an emerald,” who commands the sea and the dry land, who rules from everlasting to everlasting, gave up everything for us.  I literally mean everything.  Phillipians 2 tells us that  Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”  Jesus became a child born in the dirtiest of conditions, a stable, because his family could not find room in Bethlehem.  No one came to celebrate the birth of the King of kings, the only onlookers were the animals.  Then, the Lord sent angels to announce Christ’s coming….to a field full of shepherds.  They could have been sent to Rome itself, or to the king of Judea to announce the birth of Jesus and make many fall in awe, but God sent the angels to the shepherds.  Then, those shepherds came to Mary and Joseph and worshipped Jesus.  He deserved so much more, but he chose humble himself.

In light of what Jesus did by even coming to earth, and not only that but being born in a low class in a dirty stable, how could I justify my pride?  I had no more reason to be proud of my little bit of service than a two-year old does for picking a twig up off the ground.  The Christmas story of humility goes farther than Jesus’ birth, Phillipians 2 continues in verse 8, “and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  We in the 21st century United States of America cannot understand the shame of the cross.  It was an execution and public mocking rolled into one, and it lasted for hours, usually a whole day.  Jesus did not deserve to die that way, he did not deserve to die at all, yet he chose the cross for us.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  I am a sinner, we all are, and deserving of death, but Christ took our sin upon himself so that we could be made right with God.  That is amazing.  It blows me away.

When I thought about all of that, I realized that any service I could do cannot compare to Christ’s humility, and it made me thankful.  Christmas time is a time, for me at least, to reflect on Christ’s humility, and how undeserving I am, and how thankful that should make me.  I do not deserve the gifts I get or the special moments I have any more than I deserved for the King of the universe to die in my place, unrecognized and unknown.

What Every Young Woman Needs To Know

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In the beginning, God created all things, and last of all, man and woman.  Humankind is special, because we were created in the image of God, he created us to reflect his character.  God didn’t make one gender-neutral person who reflected the whole of God’s character, he created male and female, each to reflect different aspects of himself.  Men he created to be powerful, protective, and to hold authority.  God created women to be life-giving, beautiful, and helpful.  Both people represent the image of God, they just do it in different ways.

When the first man and woman betrayed God in the garden of Eden, sin was brought into the world.  God told them how hard life was going to be, that work would no longer be pleasant and that pain and suffering would happen.  He told Eve that she would desire to rule over her husband.  After sadly giving Adam and Eve the news that life would no longer be perfect, God gave them hope.  He told them that a savior would come, who would bear the punishment for sin and bring about forgiveness and eternal life.

Fast forward to today, thousands of years after the fall of man happened.   In the United States, feminism is on the rise and people take longer than ever to become adults.  Marriage has been thrown away and gender is being neutralized.  In huge contrast to this is the Middle East, where women are treated as slaves and men have more power than they know what to do with.   Neither is what God intended for mankind.  However, we have a hope that overcomes the darkness of the world.  Jesus is our hope.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus the Christ came  to earth as a man, fully human, fully divine.  The only begotten Son of God descended from heaven to earth as and became a child, born in the humblest of places.  As a man, he worked miracles upon the earth and preached about the kingdom of heaven.  He healed the blind, freed people from demons, and even raised the dead.  His works brought hope to many, but he brought something more than miracles and words.  Jesus gave up his life and was crucified though he had committed no crime.  He had lived without a sin, yet he died bearing the weight of all people’s sin.  In the moment of his death, he broke the division that had been set up between God and man.  He was the perfect sacrificial lamb.  that was not the end of the story.

One day, a woman named Mary was going to the tomb of Jesus, a man whom she had believed was the Christ.  When she got there, she saw the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, and no body inside.  She wept, believing that the body had been stolen.  A man came to her and revealed to her that he was Jesus, and had risen from the dead by the power of God.

This is the basis of our story, and is the reason I am writing this series.  I am writing to share the gospel and glorify God.  Young men and women need to know that there is hope for them in Christ.  They need to know that they have been redeemed, and if they accept that gift of redemption, that they become a child of God.

Acts 16:31 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”