I am currently reading an “unusual” novel.  I am +140 pages into it and am not yet prepared to call it “interesting”.  It is the “diary” of an extraterrestrial from a different galaxy visiting earth on an exploratory mission.  The visitor’s journal explains that “a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small, waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”  He comes from a place where mathematical equations have everything figured out and control life, to the point that the species heals itself, lives forever, and has nothing much to do (or so it sounds to me).

His mission is to discover if a certain professor has solved the Riemann Hypothesis (look it up if you wish).  Thinking that humans are not prepared for such a discovery, his follow-up task is to kill the one who has solved it and anyone with whom he has shared his discovery.  He, and those who sent him, assume that earthlings are simply losers living in a lonely corner of the universe.

It is difficult for me to use the term “losers” these days without thinking of our Detroit Tigers.  While I have not taken the time to actually look up the statistics, I believe their main problem this year has been losing streaks.  How many times have they gone into a funk and then lost 5 or more games in a row!  And, conversely, have they ever won more than 5 games in a row?  If those losing streaks were simply cut in half they could be contending with the Twins for the Central Division lead.  And, while their 59-73 record may declare them to be losers, they really have played exciting and entertaining baseball this summer … and are looking to be greatly improved (eternal optimist here) next season.

Along a similar vein, the extraterrestrial visitor in my novel seems to be noticing some intriguing things about humans … things like feelings and emotions, all of which his planet’s mathematical equations have eliminated.  With no death there is no fear.  Since they are able to heal themselves there is no pain.  Their equations seem to have every aspect of life and living covered.  But what do their equations do to joy, love, fun, and faith?  Perhaps the second of this novel will be more interesting than I anticipated?

We are fallen people who live in a fallen world.  It is because of this fact that we experience sadness, pain, disappointment, and death.  However, at the same time, we are creatures who are created in the image of the One True God, and “God is love” (1 John 4.16).  It is because of this fact that we are able to experience joy, healing, love, and satisfaction.  While the extraterrestrial visitor in the novel I am reading may arrive on earth assuming he comes from a utopian place to visit a bunch of losers, there are many advantages we experience here in spite of our fallen state.  Why?  Simply because “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2.4-5)  And perhaps we should be looking at the term “losers” in a different way.

Consider for a moment what losers like you and me lost in our baptism.  For one, the stain of our sin – “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1.18).  To this add despair, overwhelming grief, and hopelessness – “(I) give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61.3).  There simply is no comparison between what we as “losers” have lost to what we have already received … and the best is yet to come!

In reality, my unnamed novel narrator is the real loser.  In making himself (and his fellow extraterrestrials) to be the gods of the universe, they have locked themselves into an eternity that is far from utopian.  There may be no pain or death, no demands or wants, but at the same time there is no real joy or pleasure, no relationships or fulfillment.  These are all lost when one takes the God of love (the One True God) out of the equation.

What are we promised in the resurrection when we will “live in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23.6)?  David tells us, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16.11)  Now, I am the first to admit that I cannot picture what life beyond this fallen world will be like, but God’s promises are clear.  “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12)

What better way to close today than with words of praise of him who replaces our “losers” tag with one of “eternal winners”?  “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” (Ephesians 3.2021) And remember, this will remain true even if some human solves the Riemann Hypothesis or introduces any other utopian dream.  We live in the paradox now of “having it all, but not yet” … by faith … through grace … according to God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.  Losers?  No way!

And, by the way, in case you are interested, here is the novel: “The Humans” by Matt Haig.