I have witnessed a movement in Christianity. It lies under the surface and often never reveals itself. Most, if asked, would deny its existence. The name of this movement: Christian realism.
A Christian realist believes themselves to be rooted firmly in reality. They recognize their own sinfulness, that of the world, and believe repairing or redeeming it proves an impossible task. Of course, such a belief involves the caveat that “God can do anything” but the reality of a fallen world lies at the heart of the Christian realist.
In the midst of processing the world’s problems comes the denial of happy endings. The Christian realist sees themselves as necessarily living more in the reality of pain than the hope of happy endings because that is simply the way life goes.
I love happy endings. Take movies, for example: regardless of how predictable the ending of a movie, if it is happy, it leaves me quite content. However, happy endings do not simply belong in the realm of cinema. Happy endings belong distinctly to Christianity.
Our whole belief system bases itself on the happy ending. God wins. This is our ultimate hope (along with all the trimmings like perfect bodies, a perfect world, etc.). A Christian who lacks a view of the happy ending lacks a vital part of their identity. What does the Christian hope in if they are not hoping in the happy ending?
The Christian realist recognizes this too, but the hope remains in the future. Christ calls us to live in the present, in light of that hope. The glory of redemption transcends the boundary of time and the way we live and act now necessarily stems from what will be.
And so, Jesus invites us to leave the ranks of Christian skepticism and join the ranks of Christian idealism. However, he does not just invite us, Jesus brings the ideal to the “real”, invading it and taking over. Ever thought about God becoming a man just to save those whom he has no obligation to love but still does? That sounds like the end of a romantic comedy to me. The incarnation, Jesus’s coming, brings the ideal and real into collision. We can believe in the ideal without becoming lost in fantasy.
This is the gift of God to us: the ideal happy ending that is real and powerful to affect us daily.