Henry David Thoreau was an eccentric 19th century American author, philosopher, and naturalist. He spent 2 years, 2 months and 2 days living in a small cabin he built himself outside of Concord, Massachusetts. He chronicles his reflections during that experience in his 1854 book, Walden. He explains the rationale for his exile in the wilderness in the following words.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Thoreau commendably wanted to live life to the fullest, to experience its richness at its deepest levels so that when he died, he could die without regret. Eight years after publishing Walden, on May 6, 1862, after a lingering case of tuberculosis, he did die. While on his deathbed, his Aunt Louisa asked him if he had made his peace with God. Thoreau’s response was, “I did not know we had ever quarreled.”
Those words, no doubt spoken in sincerity, reflect the kind of willful ignorance that has tragically plagued mankind since our first parents turned away from our Creator. I call it “ignorance” because it reflects a lack of knowledge about the way things actually are.
The Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23) and that because of sin we are all “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), that is the wrath of God. The Apostle Paul says that we are all naturally “enemies of God” (Romans 5:10).
That is undeniably the way that life is now. But it is not the way it was in the beginning. Originally, God made Adam and Eve “upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) and enjoyed perfect fellowship with them. Sin caused them to be separated from Him and at odds with Him. Failure to acknowledge that is to be ill-informed. It is ignorance.
Such ignorance is willful because, as Romans 1:18-20 says, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
So yes, we all have quarreled with God—including those who, like Thoreau, are willfully ignorant of it. Sin has placed everyone in jeopardy and exposes us all to His wrath. The result is that, left to ourselves we cannot ever have peace with God.
But the good news that is revealed to us in the Bible is that God has not left us to ourselves. On the contrary, in our weakness and helplessness, He has come to us. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, He has provided salvation for us—a way for us to be restored to Him; to have our sin forgiven and to experience genuine peace with God.
Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God now reconciles to Himself all who turn from sin and trust in Jesus as Lord.
That truth is what empowered the Apostle Paul to live the way that He did as a minister of Jesus Christ. And that truth is the very foundation of His church throughout the ages. It is what Christians live for; what we stand for. It is the one message that we have that we must declare to men, women, boys and girls today: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).