The world is filled with all sorts of problems. In some sense to live is to have problems. In some sense as well, our task in life is to solve problems despite their size, complexity, and impact.
When you awake in the morning, you have problems right out of the gate. You most likely must shower for you probably look, and perhaps, smell worse than you would like. A decision to brush your teeth is to confront yet another problem, namely, your bad breath after hours of sleep. If you want your day to go smoothly, especially as it relates to those with whom you find yourself close in terms of physical proximity, you must solve that problem!
Like all problems, these are solved with solutions that are in direct proportion to the complexity of the problems themselves. It actually takes very little time, energy, and effort to solve the problem of bad morning breath. As problems become complex, however, any solution required must be more complex as well. More thought, intentionality, and effort are required.
Like anyone engaged in any sort of work, as a coach, I am consistently faced with problems that are complicated and interconnected. Consider the process by which I prepare for any opponent. The number one problem I try to solve is how to ensure victory for our squad. That problem brings to light any number of issues. The following are the types of questions I ask myself: Should we play more of an attacking or defensive style? What formation should we use? What formation does our opponent play? Who is injured on our squad and how bad are the injuries? Will their injuries affect our style? Where is our opponent strong and where are they weak? Where are we strong and where are we weak? Who is playing well on our squad? Are we emotionally strong or weak as a team right now? What are our student athletes facing off the field that might impact our play? Who on the opponent’s team is good at set pieces? What do they typically do on set pieces? How do they score typically? How are we going to score? What if their strengths line up against our weaknesses? The questions go on and on.
To answer these questions I must prioritize the biggest problems (how to prioritize is itself a problem to solve) and, therefore, the solutions. To my dismay and often times to my delight, for I like trying to solve problems, the solutions we choose in turn create more problems to solve.
Let’s assume we have sorted out that and for our next opponent we want to play a defensive style (something that requires a lot of physical energy). We must sort out how to train what we need to teach. Should we watch film with players to show them what we want for fear of depleting their energy in a rigorous training session? Should we rest players more so they can be able to play harder in the games? Should we do both? Do we make the training environment intense or lighthearted? Do we train in small groups or in bigger groups? Do we teach on the field or in the classroom? Again, the questions go on and on.
It is important to note that the above scenario simply describes one coach for one college team in a sea of teams only trying to solve problems for one game. Importantly, none of the aforementioned questions and answers have even addressed all the problem solving that goes into building a team through recruitment nor the litany of problems to solve there. Nor does anything previously mentioned address how the overall athletic experience should be taught and interpreted as an educational one to help student athletes live well far beyond the field of play. In other words, in a world of problems, some obviously more serious than others, my problems as a coach are relatively small and trivial. After all, losing a game isn’t the end of the world.
Now imagine you are tasked with solving the problem that might actually be the end of the world for someone. Consider the problems of starvation and poverty in the world, or perhaps the problem of power inequities amongst people. These problems, along with many others, are so complex and overwhelmingly important that they have occupied the minds and required the energies of leaders in all civilizations throughout time. In fact, any time any group of people organizes a government, it is really an attempt to solve such problems and requires enormous sacrifices of time, energy, and effort. Simply looking at the sheer number of people who have given themselves to these and other similar problems, we recognize just how big the problems are, for the solutions clue us in to the problems’ complexity and severity. These problems in particular actually have required generations of work in to trying to solve them. And, while the world is better in many respects, we still have a long way to go.
What may not be obvious from the above, and what is actually the main point of this article, is that we can learn much about the various problems in the world by closely looking at their (successful and unsuccessful) solutions. In that light, let us consider the sacrifice of Christ. For it was an especially significant solution to an especially significant problem.
To say that sin is a big problem is the ultimate understatement. We can know this by looking at the solution—the death of God incarnate himself. Christ’s death was no ordinary death. It was a slaughter, the likes of which is unparalleled. Certainly in some sense the death was common, as crucifixion was widely practiced. But his was no ordinary crucifixion. And as though being betrayed unto death by someone you love is not bad enough, Christ had to endure such betrayal from his own creations. Then, to have heaped upon him all the guilt of everyone who has ever sinned and ever will sin is an idea so outlandish it defies all rational categories.
Of course it did not stop there. Jesus not only was beaten beyond recognition and abandoned by God himself, he then faced the daunting task of descending into hell (there’s no telling just how awful that was). Finally, there is this fact. We have sitting on the throne of God a man. The perfect Son of God eternally became human, forever to remain so. I don’t pretend to understand all that this entails. But the fact that Jesus chose to permanently sidle up to humanity by becoming one of us is a fact so glorious it is beyond complete comprehension.
So what is the point of this venture into problems and solutions and specifically into sin, the most significant of problems? I suggest four thoughts to consider. First, I contend that we would do well to humbly approach complex problems and prepare to engage in solving them with appropriate time, energy, and effort as is in keeping with them.
Second, to understand how dreadful the problem of sin actually is, we must examine what it took to solve it. That solution is so immense and complex, and required so much energy, time, and effort to solve, that the next time we are tempted to sin it would do us well to remember exactly what it took to solve the problem.
Third, as it relates to the Christmas story, understanding the birth of Christ is to indeed understand the first step in solving the most significant problem in existence.
Fourth and finally, in a day and age where we are tempted to soften the gospel for fear of offending others, we would do well to remember the robust nature of the solution required to solve the sin problem. I fear that in some ways the church, in the interest of catering to culture, has been and is willing to compromise on various sin issues. By doing so we necessarily demonstrate our ignorance as to the seriousness of the problem. So let us not lose sight of the enormity of the sin problem, nor lose sight of just how glorious our solution is in Jesus.
Merry Christmas from Res Publica!