One of my favourite things about sitting on the deck at my cottage is watching (and listening to) the hummingbirds. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the first person to respond to the elegance of this little bird by pausing to thank the Creator of all for this tiny gift of creation (they weigh less than a penny). But there I am, reflecting silently, ‘How beautiful!’, when another hummingbird flies by to bully the first one away from the feeder that I have set out for their eating pleasure. The pattern continues for several minutes. These cute little birds are quite literally at war in order to secure the premiere spot in the pecking order.
Some folks will note how normal this is. ‘Nature can be harsh,’ they’ll say. Anyone who has seen a few episodes of Planet Earth gets this (particularly if you’ve seen the episode which tracks two tribes of monkeys engaged in a territorial dispute). Yes, by every appearance, it is indeed a ‘dog eat dog world’ out there. This present reality is normal in the sense that what we currently observe is commonplace. I’m not the first person to have witnessed a fight between hummingbirds. I admit that what I saw while sitting on the deck at my cottage was not the least bit unique. And yet, as I survey the Scripture I get the distinct sense that our current reality, our present day normal, isn’t what God intends.
Read the opening chapters of Genesis and we find man procuring his meals from fruit trees, while animals are presented as prospective helpers. The introduction of death of any kind is portrayed in direct relation to man’s ‘fall’ into sin (see Genesis 3). While I concede that consuming Certified Angus Beef is something I like immensely, I also get that our current experience of the ‘food chain’ was not God’s initial design…nor is it His ultimate design. ‘The way things are’ is not an accurate reflection of what life is meant to be. The persistence of conflict (‘natural’ and otherwise) and the harsh sting of death ought not to lead us to despair, but rather, it should produce a longing within each of us for a better way, a better world, and a better ‘reality’.
I am delighted to report that the Bible promises as much. Beyond the redemption of individual persons, the Scriptures speak also of the more thorough redemption of creation. The prophet Isaiah foretells of a day when ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6). Similarly, the apostle John describes his vision of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, a place where ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:1-5).
How this specifically translates in eternity isn’t all that important to me. I am encouraged, however, to learn that the conflict and death that bothers me today will be entirely absent in glory. I am so encouraged to read that Christ’s death not only reconciled me to my Creator, but it reconciled ‘all things on earth and in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20).
This is the way it was meant to be from the beginning. Thankfully, someday, this will be reality.