CompassPlease read the following: “It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”

“As he ever has judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarfs and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

Did the above passage come from:
a) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
b) The Lord of the Rings

If you answered a), well, you are the weakest link. If you answered b), well, I wish I had a million dollars to give you but I hear that coming into large sums of money can be more bane than boon. But I digress.

As I reread The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time (in preparation for the movie) the above passage hit me with fresh force. It seemed so apt for our times. In times of rapid change and bewildering events, we are shaken and wonder if the laws of right and wrong still hold. The passage captures this phenomenon well. And we do live in uncertain times.

This was true even before September 11th. In such times of disorientation we are tempted to ask if a strict paradigm of right and wrong still holds. Overnight, alliances change. Convictions long held are put aside. Pragmatism seems to be the only true north. Holding on to moral absolutes appears to be a luxury we cannot afford.

More than ever we need to hear the wisdom of Tolkein as expressed through the character of Aragorn. Indeed “good and evil has not changed since yesteryear.” If we claim to follow the one true God than good and evil cannot have changed since they are predicated on His unchanging character and written in His unchanging Word.

Yes, life in a fallen world means we have to live with many shades of grey. But grey cannot exist without the prior existence of black and white. Perhaps this is the most important duty that the people of God can do for our neighbours as we enter the new millennium. We need to say to one and all that though the times may be a”changing, underneath the tumult there is a true and sure foundation.

In a day and age when moral absolutes are easily abandoned to the strident calls of nationalism and pragmatism, we need to say that there are some things that never change. Good and evil do not change. Because God does not change. His laws protect and bless us. His grace sustains us.

We need to speak these truths. We need to exhibit them in our lives. For pragmatism without moral absolutes is no true north at all. It changes direction from day to day. It will lead us into the abyss.

Your word is everlasting, Lord;
it is firmly fixed in heaven.
Your faithfulness endures for all generations,
and the earth which you have established stands firm.
Even to this day your decrees stand fast,
for all things serve you.
Had your law not been my delight,
I should have perished in my distress;
never shall I forget your precepts,
for through them you have given me life.”
(Psalm 119: 89-93 REB)