Friday, September 11, 2009

What is human nature?

In several conversations this week, I was engaged with others about how our outlook on life, our view of God, and our view of human nature (among other things) affects the way we live our life. Tonight I watched the History Channel with different videos of the events of 9/11/01.

It was interesting to note that the events of 9/11 were an act of misguided religious fervor and hatred. There were those that certainly took advantage of these events and there were those who responded immediately with shouts and acts of hatred. However, there was story after story of people helping others, offering water, carrying others, and sacrificing themselves for others. It raises the question about whether human nature is good or bad.

There are those that insist that humans are flawed, bad, selfish, and evil and there are those that insist we are blessed with a spark of the divine that instills us with a capacity for selflessness, love, and kindness. So many times our theologies and our lives are built upon believing that humans are one or the other. Some emphasize the sin nature of humans and their brokenness, while others minimize the idea of sin and look at the human capacity for altruism. What we believe to be fundamentally true about humans affects how we approach relationship and interactions with others. It seems an odd thing on which to be polarized, and yet, there are divisions and conflict between people and churches that are based on this very split. The difficulty seems to be in our desire to reduce things to simple divisions of black or white, right or wrong, good or bad.

It seems more difficult for us to live with the tension of "both/and" in anything. In the end, people are not good or bad; they are good and bad. That Jesus needed to die for a broken people separated by God always meant to me that goodness was impossible without Jesus. I have learned from others that even broken people have the capability of goodness from time to time and I believe that God may even be present when people act in ways that are compatible with God's ways.

In the end, I was broken and sinful, but I am still broken and sinful. I am also blessed, gifted, and forgiven. It is not not that I WAS bad and now I am "good", but that I have a sinful nature and am in need of reconciliation with God on a daily basis while I am also trying to live out that love in the service of others. I struggle some days and I feel grounded in God's love others. My guess is, so do you. So, when I struggle, I will look to you for help, but take heart, when you struggle, I will do my best to bring the light in me to you.