The statement above, in its context, is part of a chapter in the book, Orthodoxy, called “The Flag of the World”. Chesterton talks about going back to the darkest roots of civilization and how the cities that have grown great are all knotted around some sacred stone. First, honor is paid to a spot and later it gains glory. The chapter, as a whole, is setting up the case for Christianity and the doctrine of the fall.
The fall refers to how God, as the creator of the world, set it free...like (as Chesterton would say) a playwright who wrote the perfect play and handed it over to human actors and stage managers who then made a great mess of it (see Genesis chapter 3). To clarify, I do not believe that God is like a playwright who writes a play and walks away. He's intimately involved and in control but he gives us free will.
Another allegory that Chesterton uses to describe the fall is that of a shipwreck...all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred…just as Robinson Crusoe had saved his goods from the wreck when he was on the island.
The main idea is that this world, as it is now, is in a fallen state. It’s not what the Creator intended it to be. We were created for something more. There are sacred stones left behind. They offer us a glimpse of that something more, reminding us that we are not at home.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. “ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)
The doctrine of the fall explains the separation between God and Man and our sin nature. But it’s not the end of the story. The rest of the story is about redemption and ultimately; it’s all about God, glorified (Revelation 21). God made a way for redemption through his son, Jesus.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. “ John 3:16 (ESV)
I’ve sometimes wondered, though, why God loved the world after the fall…why not just wipe his hands of us and start fresh somewhere else? But when I first read the Chesterton quote, about man’s love for Rome (at the beginning of this post) something clicked for me. What is true on a human level seems to also be a shadow of what is true on a spiritual level.
God did not love this fallen world because it was great. It will be great (again) because he loved it. @@God did not love you because you're great. You're great because he loved you.@@ For God himself to enter into this broken world, for Jesus to take on humanity and live a perfect life, be crucified, and rise again, so that we might be redeemed…it’s an honor and an act of love beyond comprehension.
Sacred stones. This world is God’s creation. You are God’s creation. You are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Without God, there is no good. But God is so good, that even in our fallen state, he made a way to redeem this world. Yet he gives us a choice. God’s redemption, through Christ Jesus, is a gift of grace that cannot be bought…but it must be accepted. He won’t force it on you. Acknowledging that we have fallen and have sinned is the first step. Accepting Jesus’s forgiveness and choosing to follow him is the next. After that, you are redeemed. You are a son or daughter or God with all the rights and privileges. His Spirit will continue to work on your heart, helping you to become more like Jesus, for his glory, as he prepares you for that day when you meet him face to face.
What an amazing love. What an amazing God. He is glorified.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2 (ESV)