role

You Are Playing a Role in the Bigger Story

7 June 2023

6.6 MINS

No Christian life is insignificant in the role-play of the divine drama.

It may be hard for many Christians to believe that what seems to be a pretty mundane and routine life (going to work, feeding the kids, mowing the lawn, and so on) is not insignificant but part of a much larger and much grander story. The truth is, we all have a role to play in the divine metanarrative, and there are no little people (to use Francis Schaeffer’s phrase) when it comes to our involvement in the building of the kingdom.

We All Have a Job To Do

When Jesus offered us his model prayer, he said “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9–10). That means you and I as God’s people all have a job to do as we seek to see his kingdom realised on earth. We each have a part in the divine play happening right here and right now on planet earth.

And a core part of that is simply being faithful – and obedient. Whatever it is that God has called us to do, we must do it diligently and faithfully – and leave the results up to God. This notion of simply obeying is a key part of our Christian walk and serving the Lord.

It was certainly a major theme in the writings – both fiction and non-fiction – of the notable Scottish pastor and author George MacDonald. Those who do not know much about him are urged to read this introductory piece.

MacDonald has a huge influence on another very important Christian writer and thinker: C. S. Lewis. Here I want to tie all these things together: our role in the divine story; the importance of obedience; and the thoughts of Lewis and MacDonald.

Lewis and MacDonald On the Role We Play

And I will do it by following up on a piece I penned yesterday on the Second Coming of Christ and what Lewis had to say about it. His 1952 essay “The Christian Hope – Its Meaning for Today” was published as “The World’s Last Night”. See my discussion of this important piece here.

As to the matter of obedience, sure enough, Lewis manages to fit in a George MacDonald quote in his short piece. Lewis talks about those who – like William Miller – foolishly set dates for the Lord’s return, only to be proven spectacularly wrong. Says Lewis:

“Of this folly George MacDonald has written well, ‘Do those,’ he asks, ‘who say, Lo here or lo there are the signs of His coming, think to be too keen for Him and spy His approach? When He tells them to watch lest He find them neglecting their work, they stare this way and that, and watch lest He should succeed in coming like a thief! Obedience is the one key of life’.”

Image of The World's Last Night: And Other Essays

As to this idea that we are all players in the divine drama being acted out here on earth, I quoted some of what Lewis had to say in my previous article. Here I want to offer more of his very helpful thoughts. He discusses this in the context of refuting the modern notion of progress. He says it is clearly not the case “that there is any law of progress in ethical, cultural, and social history.” He goes on to say this:

The idea which here shuts out the Second Coming from our minds, the idea of the world slowly ripening to perfection, is a myth, not a generalization from experience. And it is a myth which distracts us from our real duties and our real interest. It is our attempt to guess the plot of a drama in which we are the characters. But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. To play well the scenes in which we are ‘on’ concerns us much more than to guess about the scenes that follow it.

He then discusses a very minor and nameless character in Shakespeare’s King Lear:

All the characters around him — Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund — have fine long-term plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. He has no notion how the play is going to go. But he understands the present scene. He sees an abomination (the blinding of old Gloucester) taking place. He will not stand it. His sword is out and pointed at his master’s breast in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told. But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted.

The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph. This seems to some people intolerably frustrating….

But we think thus because we keep assuming that we know the play. We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who the minor characters. The Author knows. The audience, if there is an audience (if angels and archangels and all the company of heaven fill the pit and the stalls) may have an inkling. But we, never seeing the play from outside, never meeting any characters except the tiny minority who are ‘on’ in the same scenes as ourselves, wholly ignorant of the future and very imperfectly informed about the past, cannot tell at what moment the end ought to come. That it will come when it ought, we may be sure; but we waste our time in guessing when that will be. That it has meaning we may be sure, but we cannot see it. When it is over, we may be told. We are led to expect that the Author will have something to say to each of us on the part that each of us has played. The playing it well is what matters infinitely.

Playing Our Role in Day to Day Life

I said above that for many of us Western Christians today, much of our daily activity has to do with the daily chores and the humdrum of life: driving to work, going grocery shopping, changing diapers, and attending our children’s sporting events. Those things – and a million more – may not seem like much in the bigger scheme of things.

Indeed, we may not think we are doing much for the kingdom. But simply being faithful and obedient in the little things IS doing much for the kingdom. And of course it is not just the importance of raising the next generation and being good parents and Christian role models to them. We can do so much even in the mundane things of life.

As I have said before, simply walking the dogs can be part of our kingdom-building efforts. When I walk my dog twice daily, I pray for all my neighbours as I walk past their houses. It is likely that only in the next life will I learn if my hundreds of prayers did in fact help bring some of these folks into the kingdom. So even those walks with Jilly are not wasted.

The truth is, we will not know this side of heaven just how much influence we will have had in this life – just how much good we may have done for Christ and the kingdom. And it is not just our prayers as we go about our daily business that can have a real impact.

What we say, what we do, how we act, and how we react will all have eternal consequences, for good or ill. When you do not feel like it, but you smile and give friendly chit chat to the check-out chick at your local shop, you do not know what you may have just done. Unbeknown to you, it may have been a life-changing event for her. She may have been on the verge of quitting her job, or even taking her own life, and your smile and brief remarks may have nipped that in the bud.

We just will not know all the influence and impact we are having in this life. And as mentioned, it can be a very good impact with positive eternal consequences, or a bad impact with negative eternal consequences. As Lewis put it in another very important piece, his 1942 sermon, “The Weight of Glory”:

It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

There are no ordinary people. And that includes you.

___

Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash.

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One Comment

  1. Anne Cutchie 10 June 2023 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Excellent Bill. Very timely reminder in these strange and chaotic days.

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