The RPG of Life

Perhaps somewhat unwisely, I installed the Role-Playing Game Baldur’s Gate II on my laptop a month or so ago. I’ve found it really fascinating to observe how so many of my personality traits are drawn out and highlighted by playing the game. Take, for example, my constant desire to avoid confrontation. I’m constantly fearful of saying the hard truths that might make people within the game attack my party. Or my unwillingness to head into the future without knowing what I’m about to face: I’ve found myself frequently wanting to turn to an FAQ to find out what’s about to happen rather than being content to discover as it happens. That’s just like me in real life, where I always want to know the end from the beginning rather than being willing to trust God and get on with it even when the outcome is uncertain. Or the really big one – indeed, one of the main attractions for me of playing a game like Baldur’s Gate II – that insatiable urge to accumulate “stuff“, even if it’s not actually going to be useful for me. The whole point of many of the side quests is just to pick up these cool magical items and feel the satisfaction of levelling up and gaining reputation. The thought of making choices in the game that will shut down options, making it impossible to gain certain items, well that’s just intolerable.

There are a few ways, however, in which playing the game has brought home the meaning of certain Biblical illustrations in a whole new way. Take Psalm 119:162, for example:

“I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.”

It makes me imagine my Level 12 ranger stumbling upon some amazing treasure trove full of wonderful, wonderful bounty. Discovering profound truths from God’s word should bring far greater joy than any magical Short Sword +3.

Letting Others Shine

Why Service Is the Heart of the Universe

A few weeks ago I came to the end of a very happy time working for the VFX company Framestore as a software developer in their Production Tools group. We were basically responsible for the various databases and other software systems that keep a company like that running smoothly, enabling other talented folk to focus on doing their jobs well so that they could get on and make fantastic movies like Where the Wild Things Are. As I was leaving, I pondered how that mentality – the unknown and out-of-sight software servants nobly doing battle with the evil forces of SQL and PHP, so that others might be rescued from a slow and certain death by data – well, that mentality reminds me a lot of my king, Jesus. In a particularly poetic bit from the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes this about him:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death–
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is in very nature God – the eternal Son of God – deserving of the same glory and honour as God the Father himself. And yet rather than standing on his rights and putting his feet up and having people feed him grapes all day long, instead he looked down at the plight of our world – a world ravaged by sin and under the righteous judgement of God – and he rolled up his sleeves and took up his mop. He came to deal with our sin by becoming a man and dying in our place to take the punishment that we deserved – my sin was counted as his sin, so that his perfection might be counted as mine – and he suffered the most humiliating death humanity could devise: even death on a cross.

But the result? It was for this reason, because of his willingness to suffer in our service, that God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. The route to true glory isn’t to go seeking it out, to puff up your chest and say “look at me, everybody!” (Twitter, take note!) The principal at the heart of our universe is glory through the ultimate sacrifice of self-interest.

It’s also worth pointing out, in closing, that if Jesus Christ is Lord, if his is the name that is above every name, well then that leaves little room for me to try and be lord of my little empire, for me to try and make my name the one that everybody praises. Any attempts to usurp Jesus’ throne and glorify the name of Andy Geers will ultimately be thwarted when the true king returns. Why not save yourself the bother, and get in line with the future right now by submitting to Jesus’ lordship? It’s not the valiant software developers of Production Tools who get their names up in lights when the film comes out at the cinema, but the Director. The great news of Christianity is that when the True Director, Jesus Christ, arrives on the red carpet, those who trust in him will get to marvel at and share in His glory for the rest of eternity.