I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 12 years old. Recently, I’ve been teaching myself the piano. On the guitar, both hands usually work together to make the same notes or chord. It’s not like that with the piano. The left hand and the right hand have to learn to work independently; one may be playing chords, while the other is playing a string of notes. My observation so far is that the musical whole is the most beautiful when the left hand and the right hand do things completely different from each other. But that is the stuff that’s hardest to play. It’s the musical equivalent of rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time.
The guitar is a one dimensional instrument. The piano is multi-dimensional.
The “good news” of Jesus is more piano than guitar … and you can’t play it like it was a guitar. Christ’s grace simultaneously consoles and transforms. It humbles and exalts. It crucifies and resurrects.
The “good news” Paul preached was about a Son who came in weakness and rose in power (Romans 1:1-7). The first half of the “good news” Paul preached was about a Christ who died according to Scripture and was buried. The second half of his “good news” is that Christ was raised according to Scripture and appeared to his followers, thus launching their Kingdom-mission to the world (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Paul spends most of the 15th chap. of 1 Corinthians amplifying the resurrection side of the gospel: because Christ rose he now reigns, and because he now reigns he will return to consummate God’s story in history (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
With no small spiritual insight, theologian Karl Barth builds this dual perspective into his entire treatment of Christ and his mission. He does so by borrowing from the ancient church’s vocabulary of “seven deadly sins.” Barth argues that the Son of God came down in humility to break us of the fatal sin of pride (Church Dogmatics 4.1), and the Second Adam rose in power to raise us up from the debilitation of our sloth (Church Dogmatics, 4.2).
If the Bible’s story were a piano composition, the left hand would be playing descending block chords depicting the Son’s humiliation and death. The right hand would be playing a dancing, rising arpeggio evoking the Son’s glorification and resurrection.
Pride and sloth have been evil twins following me all the days of my life. In my upbringing, I developed a huge sense of entitlement. So in the earlier years of my Christian walk, I was more aware the Lord was teaching me to die to my pride and to see myself united to him in his death. Learning to take my place in Jesus’ death, absorbing the way of lowliness, of gratitude, of humility and service – these have been hard lessons.
But now that I have (in all likelihood) turned the corner into my latter years on this earth, I’ve become increasingly aware of the Lord’s work to press into me the other side of the “good news” – a resurrection power that slays sloth.
Live long enough, and the “beat down” begins to, well, beat you down. Yes, it really does. It so happens that a lot of the people I know these days – ironically, they are not all old! – are less about self-justifying (what pride does) and more about giving up (what sloth does). I find myself challenging myself and those around me to consider the unimaginable greatness of the gift the “good news” promises: because he lives, so do we.
I so love the Son of God who has come down to meet me in my self-importance. What staggeringly “good news” it is that he exchanged my self-promotion for his own poverty of spirit. By his death, he has committed himself to free me forever of the lie that I can climb a stairway to heaven! May I play those chords well.
I so love the Second Adam who rose to overwhelm my indolence. What astoundingly “good news” it is that he exchanges my spiritual torpor for his own hunger and thirst for the right-making of all things. By virtue of his resurrection, ascension and promised return, he has committed himself to lift me out of every pit of despair and slough of despond. May I play that arpeggio well.
I still love the guitar. But I also love the way the piano has challenged me to an ambidexterity I never even imagined I could have. Even more, of course, I love the fullness of the “good news” that steeps us in the fellowship of his sufferings and the power of his resurrection.