AP NEWS

A tale of two lives

February 14, 2019

A Tale of Two Cities, written by Charles Dickens in 1859, is a historical novel depicting the era of the French Revolution. In its opening lines we find one of the greatest quotes in English literature:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

This quote is probably so relevant to each generation because it captures the duplicity of our human nature, and since cities and cultures and countries are comprised of people, we often find this strange duality manifesting itself not just in ourselves, but also in our perceptions of the world.

The series of contrasts listed in Dickens’ quote can so easily be applied to the different outlooks of two people in different political parties, or of two citizens, or people with different cultural, or generational backgrounds, who value different things. Two people in the same country, and living at the same time, or in the same scenario, can have totally opposite perspectives while analyzing the very same data or experience.

In our country today, there are people who are convinced that this is the best of times; while others are just as adamant that it is the worst of times. There is more information available to most of us today than at any time in history, so more wisdom ought to be available to us, yet daily we encounter people who behave with such foolishness to cause one to conclude that they have no brain or thinking ability at all.

We have Bibles in our homes, and the ability to read them to gain the wisdom of God, and yet few people bother to do it. We have more access to Bible study, worship, and spiritual food, but fewer people attend worship to feed their souls. Many people are highly educated, while living in total spiritual darkness, with no awareness of God, nor of who Jesus is, or even enough awareness to realize He is missing from their life. As a culture we have free access to life in the light, and yet so many choose to live in the dark.

With the kinds of opportunities, education and technology available to us today, we should be living in the best of times; yet the availability of all these things can jumble our priorities, overwhelm our schedules, and overload our senses. We have access to seemingly endless new fruit and experiences; yet some people look at that scenario and become overcome with stress and hopelessness, because they do not find the renewal of life and hope they desire.

Life often offers a mix of the good, and the bad; the wise and the foolish, joy and delight as well as sadness and despair. In truth, much of what we find in life is what we are looking for in it. In Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) we read: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” We become like what we think. The world view that we embrace inside us, becomes the lens through which we view that world.

Jesus warned us that it is not things that enter into us as food or drink that taint or destroy us; it is the things which come out of our hearts, mouths and actions. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:18–19 (NASB95): “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

We see the world through the lens of our own heart. To change our perception requires a change of our heart and its perceptions. Our heart gives out, what we have put into it. How is your perception today? How’s your heart? Our perceptions don’t change until our heart changes. Is your life a tale of hope or despair? What do you see through the lens of your heart?

Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.