For the past few months my 2-year old son has been drawing on the walls, and the bathtub, and the floors, and boxes, and pretty much anything he can write on with a crayon—his weapon of choice. Just the other day I was helping him ride his tricycle, and as he passes by one of his many markings he says, “Bye bad choice, see you soon!” Although everything in his life he eventually will “see soon”, I chuckled to myself at the irony in his statement.
We become so proud of everything we do, little do we realize that even what we recognize to be “wrong” or distasteful will be that to which we ultimately return. King Solomon made a statement in his Proverbs (26:11) that the Apostle Peter restated (2 Peter 2:22)—“A dog returns to his own vomit”. Of course, my Isaiah has no idea why he continues to draw on the walls–even after we tell him not to or that it’s a bad choice—he just does. That’s part of our human nature.
Perhaps part of the problem is in our view of sin as a ‘moral’ issue. Raised in a Christian home, going to church and attending a Christian school as a kid, everything I was taught was morality. All you learn is what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’, or sin. The question was always, “Is this a sin? Is this ‘okay’?” As if that which wasn’t sin was a mere question of being permissible. Raised with that as a worldview, as it defines the very way you perceive life, living out the ‘Christian’ life anxiously permeates the mind with paranoia of constantly walking on thin ice with God—the wrathful deity who ironically is defined by “love” (1 John 4). Many people who consider themselves Christian today have spun the opposite paradigm by allowing their ‘faith’ to be motivated by inadequate applications of grace and love—divorcing any meaningful notion of righteousness for what Dietrich Bonhoeffer might call “cheap grace”.
So, what about these “bad choices”? If we look at the persona Jesus represented in His time on earth, we don’t just see a ‘perfect human’, but rather Jesus represents what God originally created in humanity—He was perfectly human. We often understand that Jesus was sinless due to the position that He depicts God, but we forget that His love-nature represents the true humanity for which we were created. To be truly human means to truly represent the God-image with which we were created. In other words, our version of humanity, rooting itself in the Fall and our consequent expression of life since, is diametrically different to the human life we are supposed to live.
What we find ourselves in is a broken system–the sin system. The choices we make, little do we realize, are influenced by the cyclical nature of our broken version of living. Our human condition, along with our innate God-image that deeply reveals that the world is not as it should be (what secular humanists refer to as our “conscience”), demands the need for justice. Interestingly, the human version of justice and that of God’s is quite different. Our justice creates ideas and assumptions that the universe holds some system of karma. Many people I talk to today truly believe in karma—what’s funny is that ‘bad karma’ is always the reference point when the subject is raised. The original concept is that humanity is in debt with the universe, karmic debt, and each individual must contribute a certain amount of good deeds to acquire good karma to be relieved of this life’s sufferings. As an aside, anyone very intrigued by the Buddhist philosophy and the idea of karma may not realize the underlying implication—this life really isn’t worth living. Jesus, in stark contrast to Siddhartha (Buddha), reveals the profound meaning of life by defeating death in the resurrection—radically altering how we ourselves may do the whole “life” thing in following Him. Referring back to the main thought, perhaps God’s covenant with Moses and His Israel in establishing the Law was, in a sense, partly due to our human need for justice. We were the ones who needed the “do and do not” list, because we really don’t know what God intended, we require boundaries, and we demand morality. Even the most secular of governments demands some system of Law.
However, as Paul noted in his often-misunderstood explanation of the Law/grace paradox, morality proves how immoral we actually are. A moral system, or one of justice, reveals that we need actually need another system. Meanwhile, a faith in Christ purely based on grace ultimately leads to utter disregard for God and the sort of humanity He saved us to return to in and through Jesus Christ—the very Kingdom of God at hand.
So, what of our “see you soon” attitude toward the “bad choices” we make? The secular humanist plea that says, “I can do the ‘right’ thing because of my own conscience apart from any belief in a higher power”, ultimately and only leads to a self-righteous sense of altruism. I was having a conversation with an atheist friend a year ago, to which we had an agreement at the point of concluding all people are inherently selfish—even to the point of agreeing that any efforts of ‘good’ committed for others is also at the heart self-seeking. Perhaps we can just start with one humble recognition in all this—we need a Savior.