In 1976 Francis Schaeffer wrote a very important book posing the question: How Should We Then Live? I was deeply impacted by that book and the many questions the book asked of the thinkers of that decade.
Over the years that followed the question presented itself to me as a serious Christian, as a young parent, as an American, and as a citizen of the world community. How would Jesus ask me to live given the culture and circumstances – both personal and global – in which I was living out my life?
Having always loved the music “Finlandia” written by Jean Sibelius, I sat down one day in the 80’s to listen to what I felt it was saying to me. This is sometimes a difficult task when a piece of music has been the setting for other familiar texts, but as I listened it seemed the music was saying, “I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven…”
If I wrote that line, what would follow? How does one live forgiven? Certainly, gratitude would be the first response. But what then? What would be the “living out” part of being treated with grace?
As the music played, I wrote quickly what I felt the Spirit was dictating to my soul. When the words were on the page, I read them and had to admit that these were words easier to write than to faithfully live out in all areas of my life on a daily basis. Again, Francis Schaeffer’s questions had intersected with my life and I was held accountable to answer, not just with words, but with my days.
The song found its way into choral arrangements and hymnals, but not until the Vocal Band and Signature Sound men began to sing it did it reach so many regular people like me. If we could all begin to believe that each of us is “where the buck stops” if the world is ever to be changed by the beautiful message of redemption – not just in what we say, but in who we truly are – I believe something amazing could happen.
The problems of the world are huge: hunger, war, crime, betrayal, devastation. The issues each of us deal with as individuals are huge: inadequacies, past failures, wasted opportunities, physical limitations, financial reversals, broken relationships. If we looked at the problems of the world and our own personal challenges as a whole, we would be paralyzed by the immensity of it all. How could we possibly change anything?
But we can take on this day. We can affect the lives around us where we are. We can choose our attitudes toward those with which we interact. We can forgive today’s offenses, live gratefully today, rejoice in the progress we’ve made so far. We can choose to live outward toward those who are in need in our neighborhood, extended family, pockets of poverty in our area. And we can do what we do today as “unto the Lord” with no “keeping track” or ulterior motives.
In time things will change – in ourselves and in our world.