I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. – Revelation 1:8
A little while ago I was reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Zarathustra had been staying in his cave in the mountains for years, reflecting about himself, and then he came out and wanted to leave that lonely place and go to the people again. And as he was coming down from the mountains, the first person he met was an old hermit. The hermit warned him not to go to the people and asked him what made him want to do a thing like that. “I love the people,” Zarathustra told him. And the hermit said, “It was my love for people that ruined my life; that’s what made me a hermit. I love God now, not people.” They finished their talk and separated. And when Zarathustra was left alone thinking about it, he was amazed, and said to himself, “Who would have believed it! This good old man has never heard – that God is dead!”
It made me shudder all over. And it’s actually true – God is dead! Of course he isn’t really dead, but in the lives of people he is dead. Nobody gets very excited if you say “God”; that is one of the most boring things in the world. When a rabbit jumps up in a field, everybody calls out, “A rabbit!” and shows a certain interest. But for most people God is irrelevant. He is dead.
There is another way God is dead: our civilization simply doesn’t need God anymore. What good is God when you are on the train? The man at the controls, it is his job to get me to Stuttgart. The conductor can groan, the fireman can break his back, the engineer can worry, but isn’t it all the same to me? I just sit there on the train. That is why we can be so crude and ruthless about enjoying everything these modern times offer us; we do not need God. Science and technology do not need God. They are succeeding quite well without him! Hence the words, “They will look on him whom they have pierced” – killed, that is. God is dead, murdered. Nietzsche experienced more truth in his wrought-up nerves than all the boring Christians, who don’t have a serious thought left for God! God is of no real importance, even for people with religion, because religion has become more important than God. Though people get into tremendous arguments about religious questions, all the time God is dead. And it is perfectly all right with them if he is dead, because then they can do what they like. That is another trait of our times, people want to be able to do whatever pops into their heads or feels good at the moment.
But that is just it: God in Christ is not dead, he still is the Alpha and the Omega. And everything in between is chaos, not just a spiritual alienation in which people don’t know where life is going, but real chaos. Men and women are meant to share in the work for the end, for God’s kingdom on earth, but they won’t share. And so the madness goes on. This would be an eternal chaos except that Jesus came, and then a few followed him. But these few aren’t the religious people, the ones that look out for their own salvation, those who just join in on religion for the good it will do them. No, Jesus’ followers are people who put their lives at stake (Matt. 10:38). They are born of God, and they fight for God and for the earth. The church has no use for them, because the church wants to maintain itself as it is.
Nietzsche said, “God is dead,” and he is right. But we say, “God is alive!” We don’t want a good life, either in this one or in the other one. All we want is to know that God is alive. I don’t want a minute of easy happiness until this earth knows that God is alive! We must bow down under the living God and weep aloud for having killed him up to now. We are born for trouble, born for battle. Shame on us Christians who are always wanting to have it nice and soft, with a bit of God in our lives! We’ve got to fight until we’re dead, or we aren’t worth Christ’s name. God calls out to us, “Share in my business!” and we are fooling ourselves unless we do this.
“‘I am the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord.” Do we believe that? Believing is one thing, but getting down to living it out – that is something else. Let each one of us be earnest with himself and get off his soft bed. Even if it costs you your life, go right in, into the thick of the fight! Jesus is alive, and Jesus is victor, and he has given us our part to carry out.
This article is an excerpt from Action in Waiting.