IN THE END THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE
There used to be this tv show called “Highlander”. The premise was simple. There was a limited population of people, living among regular people, that didn’t age or die. They could be killed, but only by way of decapitation. (This is kind of grotesque now that I think about it)
Anyway the show followed one specific character. He was the “good guy”. Meaning he didn’t spend his hundreds or thousands of years using and manipulating regular people or accumulating wealth.. He was also really good at killing the bad guys that did abuse society.
The tagline for the show was “in the end there can be only one”. The central thread of the story being that one day there would be only two of these people left and they would fight to the end. The finale was a battle royale built to be the ultimate showdown between good and evil, good guys and bad guys.
My 10 year old Zach is as curious as any kid I’ve ever known. He has started to realize something about good guys and bad guys, namely the older you get the harder they are to identify. Recently watching a movie he says to me, “Is he a good guy?” I respond, “Umm, right now he is.” He says, “But what about later?” I say, “Later… not so much.”
I told Zach that he was growing up and what he was beginning to see was the reality of sin. There are no good guys. There is none good no not one (Romans 3:10). There are no bad guys. God made man in His image, in the image of God he created them, male and female (Genesis 1:27).
“What does that mean?” He asked. And that's when we stumble on to it. One of those deep questions that gnaws at us while reminding us what it means to be human. One of those questions that forces us to understand that the answer is determined by what we believe to be true, as much as it is framed in what is actually true.
“It means what it means”, I told him. “God makes good stuff. Man takes what God makes and enjoys it, but sin, like poison, seeps in and we, all of us, start to do two things that tear it all apart. First, we start to dream up reasons for why the good is from us. We made it. Second, after taking credit or plagiarizing the very nature that makes God, God; we move to the next plausible outcome. If we did it, we are God and therefore the only true worship is self-worship.
However, we don’t usually see it that way. Our lives and our sin is small, minuscule compared to genocide, terrorism, and the like.
We don’t build shrines to ourselves and pull a Nebuchadnezzar demanding people bow to it. But it's there… idolatry. Mutiny against Heaven and the unbridled unleashing of hell. What’s the old saying, “The devil’s in the details”. I mean what greater deception is there than to convince us that the issue isn’t the greatness of our rebellion, but the emptiness of what we lack, what is being held back from us.
I told Zach maybe what we should consider is to not look so much for the good guys but rather to look for the goodness. Watch for signs of Heaven and see how they so often show up in the characters we write off, in the place we reject, and in the ways we don’t understand. Watch for the gospel, see Zacchaeus in the tree and the woman at the well. See them. Ignore the public displays of self-serving righteousness, but enjoy every sliver, feast on every morsel of Heaven we find and don’t worry what the person looks like, who shared it.
The kingdom of Heaven is like this...
Like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field
Like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened
Like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old
I think there is more peace waiting for us in the gospel that we don’t fully understand, than there is in the gospel we are so convinced we do understand.
“In the end there can be only one” or “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.
In the end we are either building images of ourselves or living out the image of God.
We are looking for the good guy to affirm what we want to believe we are or we’re looking for the bad guy to confirm what we are sure we aren’t.
The gospel exposes all the good we think we have, sweeps it all up into one rotten festering pile of anarchy and puts it on display.
It’s only when we seek out the power of God, the resistance of glory pushing back against the darkness of sin, do we get those glimpses we are really looking for, glimpses of hope and righteousness.
So Zach and I aren’t looking for the good guy as much anymore. We’re looking for the glory. We’re looking for the evidences of hope, the fingerprints of God. We’re looking for what only God can do among the mess that only we can make.
See there are no heroes in heaven. No need for saviors among the saved. No need for childish and crude representations of real goodness. And so heaven is coming, and heaven is here.
If there are no heroes in heaven then there are none here. Just kingdom people, faithful people. The world isn’t what it is today because we are building toward a cosmic final showdown. The battle has been won. The world today is what is left over after each of us assumed our piece was so small, our sliver of self-worship would just blend in.
When we left godliness for hand-crafted goodness, and the work for the heroes. We know now more than ever, “none is good, none is righteous, no not one”.
We can’t trust the pastors or the priests,
We can’t trust the teachers or police.
Left to our own desires, fire
We torch the forest to find peace.
Pieces we sell or barter away
Wasting breaths trying to buy another Imago dei
And this time we can wear the cape
Take our place,
Savor the praise
And yet, in spite of all our strain
One Image, one Image, one Image remains.
We may change the words but we cannot twist the refrain
Love the Lord with all you are
And love the other, it's so germane
All the law is summed in this
In the end only this will remain
Maybe the show was right in its own way… in the end there really can be only one.