When he was left alone, this strange being took up a candle, went to a glass that hung against the wall, and surveyed himself minutely in it.
“Do you particularly like the man?” he muttered, at his own image; “why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by [Lucie’s] blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by [her] agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.”
He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes, and fell asleep on his arms, with his hair straggling over the table, and a long winding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him.
– Chapter Five of Book Two of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
This week I finished one of the most powerful and life-changing books I will ever venture to read.
Of course, I say that every book is “the best one I’ve ever read,” and my friend Sarah would know. After telling her how wonderful this book was, she proceeded to ask, “Isn’t that what you say about every book you read? That it’s ‘the best one you’ve ever read?'”
Sarah, that was an entirely ironic and rhetorical question.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was a book that had always captured my interest, but was left on that “Books to Read” list during summer, when one begins to think one can read every book in the world. With the exception of stodgy and humdrum college textbooks.
One can never seem to get enough of those. *sarcastic comment*
However, during my reading of A Tale of Two Cities, I followed the sojourns of my newest friend, Mr. Sydney Carton during the French Revolution. He is, obviously, not someone I would like to be seen with, and his appearance suggests an ugly life. He is, frankly, a struggling alcoholic. Grubby, messy, and uncouth are all words that could describe him. He has never been loved, and never cared to love.
After meeting a man named Charles Darnay, Sydney realizes the man he could have become. The man he desired so fervently to be. The honorable, respectable, handsome, and loved man he might have been. Darnay is identical in appearance to Sydney, which adds juicy irony to the story. Sydney is confronted with a future he could have had. He begins to harbor a hate for Darnay, and secretly detests him.
When, however, he meets Lucie Manette, the daughter of a French Doctor, he begins to see a side of himself that he never saw before. He begins to love; to feel like someone instead of no one. Without giving away the story, he ultimately finds that that love in his heart pushes him into dying for justice. He feels so compelled by this deep love and reverence that he cannot refuse the painful death that awaits him at the guillotine.
Spending time with Sydney has been such a pleasure. He has taught me self-sacrifice, the true meaning of love, and the price we have to pay for that love. When I get down to thinking about his sacrifice, and how sad it was to loose him in the end, it pointed out to me a truth “universally known”: every person with his or her right mind rooted in Christ knows proper justice. Whether or not they follow through and deliver that impartiality is a decision they only can make.
“And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodai, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder.”
– 2 Samuel 23:9-11
In only three verses are we give the account of Mr. Eleazar the son of Dodai the Ahohite. No long account is given of him, but from this we know that he was mighty. He, after all of Israel had run away, stood to fight and chose to bring justice. When he did so, the Lord brought a great victory. In fact, he fought so hard that his hand stuck right on to his sword.
And so it is with us.
All of us, no matter how old or how young, have the opportunity to serve the Lord’s justice at our table. We may not single-handedly defeat an army of Philistines, but we can defend our families, our hearts, and our homes from injustice. We can fight off the lies the Deceiver whispers into our hearts. We can eliminate the distractions and the idols crowding our hearts and shutting Christ’s goodness out. We can get so strong and good at it that our sword, our weapon, sticks firm to our hands.
Everyone in this world fights for something. We have been fighting ever since mankind came into existence. The first war in history ever recorded took place in Mesopotamia in roughly 2700 BC, which was a long time ago.
We have seen throughout history this cycle repeat endlessly. The tyranny England impressed upon the colonies in 1776 ultimately led to the American Revolution: they knew what was just, they were not receiving it, they knew they had to fight for it. The cruelty and oppression of slavery in the south became the start of the Civil War: they saw degradation, they knew it was wrong, they had to fight for it. The massacre of approximately six million Jews in Europe and Hitler’s Nazi Regime was witnessed by the entire world as horrific, ugly, and inhumane: they saw the pain, they knew nothing would happen if they sat back, they had to fight for it.
We have to fight for it. What is it? It is the love of Christ and the good news of our salvation and true identity in Him.
Our power and our identity is rooted in the Word of God and who He says we are. We are not defined by our nationality, our age, our educational status, or our sexuality (which is a growing trend in today’s culture). No, we are defined by Christ. As children of God, we are called by our Father and Lover to bring justice to the nations—to show them Jesus. We are called to fight so hard for Him that our sword never falls from our hands.
That sword is our Bible. It speaks to you, and it speaks to me.
Our calling upon this earth is to bring justice to all through the power, Words, and love of Jesus Christ.
I get all pumped up over that, and want to go change the world. However, as a fifteen-year-old high school senior spending her days at work, then school, then eating and sleeping makes for a scanty schedule; it leaves me without any spare time for saving the world.
Contrary to common belief, changing the world does not mean doing something big. It starts here. In our homes with our family, and serving them the truth and justice they need to get through their day. In our workplace, uplifting our co-workers and giving them encouragement when they’re going through a rough time. In our schools with our colleagues, where writing, reading, and testing never seem to get normal.
I know those were all prepositional phrases and not complete sentences, but I just had to make my point.
Christ’s love for us and our love for Him compels all of us, no matter who we are, to deliver Christ’s love and truth to this unjust world. We have the God-given power to know what is right and act upon it. Whether we are an alcoholic in eighteenth-century London, or an Israelite in the tenth/eleventh century BC, we have the power and ability to let justice prevail. Even if we only get our message out in three tiny verses. Even if we’re an alcoholic with no hope of recovery. The inexplicable power of God’s justice and righteousness can turn anyone into an agent of His love.
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
– Corrie Ten Boom, Nazi Holocaust Survivor, Rescuer of Jews, and Server of Justice 🙂