Virtual Reality and a Greater Reality

You may be reading this article because you have followed the link at the end of my article about switching from Windows to Linux. I am now writing this to give testimony to what has recently happened in my life and to use an illustration comparing spiritual truths to the mundane things of the world.

If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to say that basically I had a very unhappy childhood. This is in spite of the fact that I came from what had the appearance of a good and stable home, but there are many complex factors involved and too much to go into right now. It has taken a long time over many years to come to the point of acknowledging this as a basic fact, but to do so has started to have a great healing effect in my life. I have over many years been troubled by specific memories from my childhood and teenage years and they have been made worse by feeling that these memories were peculiar to me and that no-one else could have possibly gone through the same thing (illogical really if you think about it!). By accepting that I had an unhappy childhood overall, it has been possible to realise that this is now not at all something peculiar to me, but rather an experience shared by millions of others.

As a Christian I’ve known for a long time the facts on how to deal with the past, not least the need to forgive those who have wronged us and I would like to think that I have been able to do these things to the best of my ability. We can appear to do all the right things but are we really entering fully into the freedom that God wants for each of our lives? There is a sense in which the past is a non-existent entity. The consequences of the past are still with us, since what we do one day can have a permanent and irrevocable effect on future events, but the past itself is totally gone. It is interesting that we are told that things present and things to come cannot separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). No reference is made here to things past – they are in one sense a non-entity. Also see 1 Corinthians 3:22 for another reference to the present and future without the past.

In my technical article I talked about running Windows within a virtual machine under Linux. In this situation Windows is effectively running in its own virtual reality inside the Linux system. While using the Windows system it all appears very real, but when you come back out into Linux you realise that this is actually a greater reality. You could maybe compare this to waking up from a dream.

We are told in Scripture that when anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). New birth makes each and every one of us a brand new person and the reality is that who we are is now traceable back to the fact that we are chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and not back to our natural birth and childhood. It is now almost as if my childhood memories can be viewed as running in virtual reality while my position in Christ is the greater reality. A bit like Windows (which I now don’t like as much as Linux) running in virtual reality inside proper reality. I have found this analogy very helpful. It is very much the way we think that affects the way we are as we are told to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Let us change our daily thinking to live increasingly in the knowledge that who we are in Christ is a far greater reality than what our past lives have made us to be.

Free Can Be Best

You may be reading this article because you have followed the link from my article about the potential benefits of using free open source software. I had the inspiration to write this as a result of watching the Christian movie “The Encounter” at around the same time as I was changing my main computer over from Windows to Linux and taking greater advantage of open source software. For me there was a clear illustration of spiritual truth in the mundane things of everyday life.

When I first watched “The Encounter” (on a previous occasion), I’ve got to admit that I had a measure of reservation at the very beginning, and wouldn’t blame you for thinking the same. This is because the film portrays Jesus in the flesh as a man within a modern 21st Century scenario. It was worth overcoming that reservation however, as the film goes on to proclaim a sound and powerful Biblical message of truth. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but basically the core message of the film is about accepting or rejecting the way of salvation.

I make reference to one particular scene in the film in which there is a dialogue between Jesus and a high flying businessman. Jesus is offering for free, the same product upon which the man has successfully built his own business empire. I can’t remember his exact words but the businessman asks a question something like “Can it really be any good if it is free?”. This got me thinking.

When I shop for a particular product, there are many times when I would be wary of the cheapest option as there is a good chance that it may not be as good as something a little more expensive. Often you will “get what you pay for” and this is a perfectly reasonable common-sense way of thinking when conducting one’s daily affairs. As I have learnt from using open source software however, there is another side of the coin so to speak, namely that it is possible for something to be both free and good.

Something free can certainly be good, but it is necessary to go a step further and say that what is FREE can even be the BEST. The most wonderful example of this is undoubtedly God’s free gift of salvation. We were all sinners in the sight of God and deserving of His eternal judgement, but He has offered his free (yes – completely free) gift of salvation and eternal life to all those who put their faith in Christ Jesus. Yes it is free and it is the very best thing that any person can ever receive in life.

I might just try and push the analogy with free software a little further, though I don’t want to detract from the previous paragraph. My switch from Windows to Linux (which will feature in more detail in another article) came out of my total frustration with the way things are going and the increasing domination of the computing scene by major corporations. Since making the change I have enjoyed greater freedom, almost as if I have been released from some sort of slavery or bondage. The Christian life is just like that – on receiving the free gift we are set free from bondage, in this case the bondage of sin. We become free to allow God to change each one of us into the unique person that He wants us to be.