In the classic 1941 science fiction novella, “Universe,” Robert Heinlein tells the tale of a vast starship originally intended to travel from earth to a far galaxy. The trip would take centuries to complete, so the voyage was planned to span generations. There was an early mutiny, however, and most of the officers died, halting the ship’s progress. Now many centuries have passed, and the descendants have no knowledge of the ship’s purpose. The ship is so large—with level upon level, district upon district, with varying levels of gravity—that most of the inhabitants are unaware that they are even on a ship moving through space. To them, the ship is simply their universe.
Within their “universe” they have had to make sense of early writings that tell about the “Ship” and the “Voyage.” There are disputes about the meaning of these writings. Some believe they are mere nonsense. Others have reinterpreted them as metaphors pointing to spiritual realities. Nobody seems to have a clue that they have all failed to fulfill the purpose for which the ship originally was made. As Hugh Hoyland, the story’s main character, discovers the truth behind these writings, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for him. Nothing can be the same.
Scripture says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Much of our life, and the life of those around us, is spent in the attempt to interact with our world and its people without reference to God. But the Bible begins with the fundamental truth that we were made in the image of God, designed specifically to be in relationship to God. All of human life was meant to be undertaken in reference to him. But like the passengers of the ship in Heinlein’s story, for countless generations we have worked to eradicate our sense of that original intention and to explain away the word he has given us. This whole process is part of what means is to be in thrall to sin.
Jesus Christ, the true Son of God who is exactly the image of God (Hebrews 1:1-4), came to restore our humanity to us by bringing us back into proper relation with his Father. Through his death and resurrection he has forgiven and done away with the sin of those who trust in him. As we come to him, life itself changes, because we recognize a new purpose to everything. Every part of our life is properly ours only with reference to God, who is over all. It can be a painful, shattering experience to be given this new life. Just as Hugh had to re-evaluate everything once he got a glimpse of the stars beyond the ship’s walls, so will we when we get a glimpse through Christ of the life with God for which we were made.