Where did we come from?
Where are we going?
What’s the point of life on earth?
Last Sunday’s sermon was titled, We Believe: Human Beings. We asked questions like the ones above in an effort to understand people from God’s perspective.
I used an illustration that I use often in regard to people. I say that as humans, on a given day, we are “50/50”. I mean that people have an equal capacity for beautiful goodness (50%) or abject evil (50%) all the time. (Romans 7:19-21)
This is an essential understanding for how we view ourselves and how we approach people as Christians in the world. As a result, it bears more explanation as we move forward.
First, this statement is simply hard to accept.
For an estimation of human good and evil, these numbers don’t seem right. To many, 50% seems low for a score on human goodness and 50% seems high when considering how evil we can be. Why not 70/30 or even 55/45?
As a whole, I don’t think we have a problem accepting or seeing the capacities that humans have for goodness or evil. But to balance them at 50/50 creates tension.
We don’t like tension. It keeps us from resting in our viewpoint in seeing people as basically good or basically evil. Yet, this is the main reason we must be aware of the 50/50 life.
Seeing people as “Basically Good” or “Basically Evil” can be dangerous.
Genesis 1:27 & 31b (ESV) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… 31 and behold, it was very good.”
Genesis 6:5 (ESV) “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
These two passages from Genesis are just a few of the Biblical texts that speak to people’s goodness or evil. However, they seem to contradict one another. The Bible seems to leave us guessing here so we opt for the usual.
To be comfortable and safe, we like to create groups of people in our lives. Family or stranger, good kid or bad kid, wise leader or foolish leader, friend or foe. It is said that we do this automatically; usually within seconds of meeting someone. This has to be a good thing right?
But what if you’re wrong? What happens if you put someone in the “friend” column when they deserve to be in the “foe” column? What if you assume someone’s evil when they aren’t? These decisions could stand to hurt you, others or cause even greater evil. (Isaiah 5:20-21)
When we think of other people as basically good, then we could assume faulty motivations, intentions or outcomes about people that might eventually hurt us or others.
When we think of ourselves as basically good, we may become blind to our own motivations, intentions or even outcomes as we think that our decision making was also, “basically good”. (Think Hitler, he thought he was awesome.)
Conversely, when we think of people or groups of people as basically evil we are apt to miss the love, beauty, connection and peace that can come from being human together. We can err in judging others. (So much evil has come from this thinking.)
When we think of ourselves as basically evil we can fall into the trap of believing ourselves to be worthless, marginal or unsalvageable. This is simply not the truth.
God sees us in none of these ways.
God’s sees us as 50/50. Sinful, yet Salvageable.
Consider scriptures like, 1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (See also, Romans 5:8, John 3:16 or Galatians 2:20)
God loves us: This means there must be something in us worth loving. Why would God send His Son Jesus to die on the cross if we aren’t worth saving? What is this goodness or worth? How much of it do we have? (See Genesis 1:26)
Whatever this worth or goodness is, overall it isn’t enough to get us past 50%. If the goodness in us got us over the hump, then we could have some hope of overcoming evil in ourselves and in the world. But that’s clearly not our track record.
Yet, God sacrificed Himself for our Sin: This means that in all the good that humanity can be, our goodness falls short and we need a savior. At the end of the day, we are still sinners. God in His grace, mercy and wisdom decided that His death was needed to overcome what we can’t.
Let me encourage you by admitting that some days are better than others. Some days I feel 70/30, some days I am 20/80. But as we think of our lives, it is rational and brings humility to see ourselves as God sees us. We are salvageable sinners who, in the bigger picture, are 50/50 any given day.