Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Plus La Change

"Plus la change, plus la même chose." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
"What has been will be again,
 what has been done will be done again;
 there is nothing new under the sun."
          (The Teacher, Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Y'know, sometimes this can be bad news, but sometimes it can also be good news.

The usual connotation of these timeless expressions is to the negative -- a sort of almost fatalistic resignation to "that's just the way it is" (cue the Bruce Hornsby song of the same name, all ye who willingly admit-eth thine age).

But what if there being nothing new under the sun could actually be helpful, healing, and reassuring?

Consider the "dark side" that we find in Acts chapter six:
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.  They produced false witnesses... (Acts 6:8-14)
This passage always amazes me -- these are the spiritual leaders among the people, who are resorting to deception and manipulation to get their way. It's mind-boggling in its audacity and the inability of these leaders to recognize how completely incompatible their actions are with their supposed beliefs.

And sadly, there is nothing new under the sun in this regard, either. The methodology of today's leaders who should know better, as those who claim to follow Christ, is often no different. Agendas coupled with power are dangerous things, and I've seen and heard far too many examples of deceit and manipulation being employed by "spiritual leaders" to destroy good people who got in their way.

But there is some very good news, found in the same story, where "nothing new under the sun" is a source of life, not death:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
Stephen is paraphrasing His Lord and Master's words, uttered during Jesus' own death on the cross.

Remember what Jesus taught His disciples about life in the Kingdom? "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45)

Jesus did this very thing on the cross, when He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) And in the end, He trusted Himself into the hands of His Father (Luke 23:46).

Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church, was following the teachings and example of Jesus, while he was being murdered. He forgave them, and he entrusted his life to his Father.

When it comes to the path of healing and recovery, there is nothing new under the sun.

Jesus taught and modeled it.

Stephen got it, and did it.

And we have the same opportunity: forgive, and entrust ourselves to our Father.


  1. Good thoughts. Not sure if the Stephen part brings comfort or not. Couldn't you have thought of an example where everyone lives happily ever after? :) But forgiving and entrusting ourselves to the Father is still always the best option.

  2. Jon, the "happily ever after" came "after". If you get my meaning. :)