Can the centre hold?

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“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

This is from the poem “Second Coming,” written by W.B.Yeats in 1919. It is filled with Biblical imagery, used to describe the social trauma of life in the aftermath of the First World War.

It is filled with anxiety for an uncertain future.

The lines quoted  always make me think of a bicycle wheel, from which the centre hub has fallen away and all the spokes are in chaotic disarray. “Things fall apart.”

It’s something that many experience when the central prop of their lives gives way. It happens when a loved one dies, or a partner is unfaithful or a business goes bankrupt…

You probably have your own story here. Did something so hurt you that you lost your balance in life? Or were you so betrayed that in your heart you whispered, “I will never trust anyone again”? In our lives, it’s sad to say, things fall apart when the centre doesn’t hold.

The Bible speaks of a totally opposite condition.

Paul was writing to a group of Christian fellowships in what we call Turkey. They were just like us, real people with real problems. They faced anxiety for the future, as did Paul himself. But Paul wanted to reassure them, in the midst of crisis, of a vital truth:

In him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)

Do you see it? It’s the very opposite of the line from “Second Coming.” Christ is the glue that holds all things secure.

It’s the Greek word sunistemi which means “to stand-together,” “to be compacted together,” “to cohere,” “to be constituted with.”

In modern Greek it describes the structure of the atom, for example, where the nucleus of every atom is “held together” by what physicists call “weak” and “strong” forces.

Here’s the definition:

“The nucleus of the atom contains positively charged and neutral particles-to use a simplistic model. Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the “strong force” which binds the nucleus together.”

That is to say, there is an active force imposed on the universe, which actively holds the very atoms of the material world together moment by moment, day by day, forever.

In Him all things hold together? I find that an astonishing thought.

By contrast, 2 Peter 3:10 describes the final breaking of that balance:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise [rhoizedon, a rushing roar] and the elements [stoicheion, atoms] will be dissolved with fire and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.

The Greek word translated “elements” in the above mentioned passage from Colossians (and in 2 Peter also) is stoicheion, which can mean “the building blocks of the universe,” or “the ordered arrangement of things.” It can also mean the “atomic elements.” The word translated “dissolved” in 2 Peter 3:10 is literally (in Greek) luo, meaning “unloosed.”

This language suggests that there will come a time in the future when God lets go of the elemental forces which hold the atom together.

One day things will indeed “fall apart.” But it will be in God’s time and in God’s way. If God “sustains the universe by His mighty word of power,” moment by moment, were He to merely relax His grasp on the universe, every atom would come apart.

Things fall apart.

But “In him all things hold together.”

I find this so reassuring. My present and my future are safe with the Lord who holds it all together.

“Do you want to know what God is like? Then look at Jesus. If you want to know how God reacts to people, look at how Jesus reacted to people. If you want to know what God thinks, how he acts and who he is, don’t get with a group of people and vote on it. One doesn’t discover divine truth with an election. If you want to know the truth about God, don’t get a book on theology, listen to a preacher, or even read a book like this one. For God’s sake, go to Jesus.” (Steve Brown)

You’re safe with Him. In him, all things hold together.

I can only speak from my own experience. When you are lost in a fog of confusion, Jesus is light and truth. And the truth holds together in him. When you are broken by divorce and a sense of personal worthlessness, He is commitment itself, hope and value. When you are burdened with guilt from the past or troubled with anxiety for the future, He holds both past and future together in the cross.

For the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, and Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and in Him is life, and in Him all things hold together.

 

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