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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Human Nature

I’m involved in a class on Character Development right now – at my church. There’s quite a large group of people taking it too. It’s a great class and I think we’re all enjoying the journey.

But I have to confess that the notion of being intentional to develop Christian character seems a bit odd to me. I mean, why doesn’t the character of Christ just manifest itself in the lives of the Christians the day they become Christians? If I were in charge of the universe, I think that’s how I’d probably do it.

The dilemma for Christians trying to nurture the character of Christ in themselves is that eternal struggle between our spiritual being and our human being. Said differently, it seems that no matter how hard we try – or how good we get, our basic human nature is still working against us.

Let’s take fear, for example. We all have fears; they seem to be inherent in our nature. Maybe you’re afraid of snakes. Perhaps it’s heights that makes you queasy. Or possibly the fear of flying troubles you. Now the Bible tells us that (God’s) perfect love drives out all fear. Repeatedly God tells us (in His Word) to not fear.

But tell that to my body when the airplane hits turbulence, the oxygen masks drop and the flight attendants look worried! God’s perfect love didn’t fail to drive out fear. No, my human nature rebelled against that perfect love and gave fear a role it didn’t deserve. This is craziness!

Another example might be understanding. The Bible tells us not to lean on our own understanding. But let’s face it, it’s kind of hard not to. I mean, we’ve been leaning on our own understanding since we were old enough to lean.

Seriously, as a toddler, we began to lean on our own understanding. I see a cookie, I understand that it’s good for me, and I want it. I may even go to great lengths to get it. Those decisions I make or actions that I take, even as a toddler, are based on my own understanding.

And the situation doesn’t get any better as I get older. In fact, it gets worse. My understanding seems to grow – or at least my perception of it does. So even if I know I shouldn’t lean on my own understanding, I’m likely to consider that my understanding is pretty good. I trust my instincts. And our culture would tell us that’s usually a good thing too!

Why doesn’t it ever occur to us naturally that our own understanding could be incomplete – or flawed? Why doesn’t our human nature like to allow for the possibility that I could be wrong? Does human nature always start with the default that it’s right and knows everything it needs to know?

After careful analysis and consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that this whole human experience is pretty perverse. It’s a travesty actually. And it can’t help itself. God says one thing. My human nature says another. It’s pre-disposed to behave that way it seems.

Cartoons used to portray a demon on one should and an angel on the other shoulder, both whispering their ways into the ears, trying to persuade us of their logic and reason. This isn’t too far from the truth!

There is a spiritual battle going on inside the life of a Christ-follower. It is the Holy Spirit, using God’s Word, prayer, conviction and other forms of communication to tell us how to live. Maybe it’s the voice of the devil, using suggestion, peer pressure, media and other forms of communication to tell us how to live.

But of course they have absolutely opposing views! And my poor brain is supposed to sort those things out. Despite the fact that the demon can look and sound like the angel, I’m not to be deceived. I’m to quiet the noise of the demon and magnify the voice of the angel on the other shoulder.

Some people say that the devil on my one shoulder, telling me to do wrong, is the voice of the devil himself. That may be the case. But I have to wonder what’s the difference then between the devil and my basic human nature. They seem to be quite similar at times and in many ways!

Is there such a thing as “human nature?” Or is that just a cop-out that we take to place the blame somewhere besides on ourselves?

Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, says that human nature is a theory that certain behaviors, thinking patterns, etc. are inherent to human beings ( Quite frankly, if that's true, then perhaps human character isn't all it's cracked up to be. It begs the question about where we can draw the line between human nature and human character.

On the other hand, God created us in His image ... as spiritual beings. So maybe God doesn't care much about human nature. Maybe He wants us to rise above human nature and move to godly character (which of course would be more useful than human character). Yes, I think that is the case.

So my conclusion, thus far, is that human nature is not to be regarded as having any power or authority. In other words, we are not to yield to it. As Christ-followers, I believe it will honor God if we rise above our human nature, and move to godly, Christ-like character. And when we do, human nature - among other things - gets defeated.

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