Daily Devotion - Monday, January 25, 2016
"I love humanity, but I hate humans." - Albert EinsteinThe Christian communities within which I was raised taught me to believe that humanity is essential evil. I remember hearing pastors preach about the inherent wickedness of humankind--going so far to make their point that they would say things like:
"You look at a tiny baby and you think to yourself 'There's no way that tiny baby could be evil,' and then you start seeing that tiny baby crying, throwing tantrums, and then you know--that baby has a sinful nature. That baby was born wicked."
This way of interpreting the story of the Garden of Eden from Genesis--where Adam and Eve chose to "be like God," and eat from the forbidden fruit, thus condemning all of humankind--is widely known as "The Fall." The idea is that before The Fall, Creation was perfect, humans were in intimate relationship with God, all was right with the world--the way God intended it.
But after The Fall, human beings are all born filled with wickedness and condemned to sweat out their survival through sweat, toil and pain. Only an act of Divine Intervention can save us from our natural, evil state and this can only happen when we choose to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord of our life.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it places God in a very unjust light. Why would God punish people for acting according to their nature? If goodness is unnatural and evil is natural, then to act in goodness means that you are living against your nature. That doesn't make any sense.
I believe that people are created inherently good, but I also believe that people have a choice as to whether that inherent goodness will thrive and flourish within them, or whither away, fading as they give strength to pride, which ultimately twists what is good. It's an ironic coincidence that live spelled backward is evil, isn't it?
The story of the Garden of Eden is a story that gets played out each and every day. Every day of my life I have a choice to make about how I want to live. Do I want to live a life in intimate relationship with God as I am created to live, or do I want to take control and do things my way?
The Apostle Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Galatians, "Those who live only to satisfy their own [selfish interests] will harvest decay and death from those [selfish interests]. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit." The word I've translated as "selfish interest" could also be translated as "pride."
If I choose my own way, if I choose to deny my created, inherent goodness, my very choices will be my punishment. My life will be harder, full of sweat and pain. "Sin," E. Stanley Jones once wrote, "is the sand in the machinery of life."
But when I choose to follow Jesus, and live as he would have me live, I begin to discover my true self. That is essentially what Jesus meant when he told his disciples, "The kingdom of God is within you." For me, embracing Jesus has meant that I finally am able to see myself as God sees me, and realize what I could be if I would let go of my pride and self-interests and simply live as I was meant to live.
May you live today and every day to please the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ, who gives us abundant life--life that God intends for us to lead. May you choose today to embrace your created, inherent goodness and deny the pride that would have you choose otherwise. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.