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Christianity 101

The Nature of Man

Heavenly Argument

It happened this way. Two angels, Michael and Gabriel, were having coffee in the lounge and discussing how to resolve a bet. Michael thinks that man is basically good—what does man in is a combination of upbringing, environment and misunderstanding. Gabriel thinks man is rotten to the core. The question is, how do we resolve the bet?

 

Michael: The first thing have to do is eliminate childhood. That’s where most of man’s bad habits are formed.

Gabriel: In other words, we get The Boss to create a man who is already an adult?

Michael: Right. No parents, no problems, Gabe.

Gabriel: OK—but an “adult” means sex. What are we going to do about that?

Michael: Got that one covered too. We get The Boss to create a woman, same way.

Gabriel: That’s not going to work. Two creations—they’ll have each other to blame.

Michael: OK—we get The Boss to make her from some part of him. That way, no finger pointing.

Gabriel: The first time that woman puts on a miniskirt your theory is going to be shot to blazes, Mike.

Michael: Good point. We can’t have a pair of prudes running around the place—sexual inhibitions cause a lot of problems. Can we get them so they’re naked—but don’t know it?

Gabriel: You might as well; but is The Boss going to go for this?

Michael: You know how He likes to create things; he’ll love it.

Gabriel: OK, that will do for heredity. What about environment?

Michael: We make a garden for them—just for them. Fill it full of fruit trees and useful plants. They get the best possible environment—one that supports them completely.

Gabriel : Better make them the gardeners—we don’t want them being idle. Idle hands, the Devil’s workshop.

Michael: Oooh, forgot about old Satan. What are we going to do with him?

Gabriel: Well, we have to test these two somehow. It’s not like he wouldn’t be willing to provide the temptation.

Michael: Yeah, but we don’t let him in any way he wants—we let him in the way we want.

Gabriel: Here’s what you can do for the test. Put one tree in the middle of the garden, and tell not to eat from it.

Michael: We have to give the man a fair chance at this. We have to warn him about it—and really threaten him if he does eat.

Gabriel: OK, we’ll give them the death penalty if they eat.

Michael: The death penalty? For one piece of fruit? Gabe, isn’t that a little extreme?

Gabriel: Look—what could be more clear cut than this: Only one thing that you could possibly do wrong—that eliminates any shades of gray ethical problems. They get a perfect childhood and a perfect environment, and the death penalty if they screw up. What could be more convincing a test?

Michael: I’m sold. But what are we going to do about Satan? If he shows up in great power, it will confuse them no end.

Gabriel: Piece of cake, Mike—we only let him enter in the form of a snake. People just naturally loathe snakes. That should set off the alarm bells for these two.

Michael: Done deal! Let’s go see The Boss.

The Boss

It turns out that God has already conducted this little experiment. Only He would have the power to do so. It is a demonstration so clear that only one conclusion is possible: Man, by his very nature, is a sinner. Not one of us is perfectly righteous.

But the experiment in the Garden of Eden tells us a few other things too.

·         We can see that God intended man to be good—He created us that way.

·         But—by our own choices—we are sinners. Because God is righteous, He can have no dealings with sinners.

This explains a lot about human behavior. Why is it, we ask, that the people around us can be kind, generous and loving at times—and the same people can watch someone being beaten to death without bothering to call the police? The answer is found in the fallen nature of man.

We are not mixtures of good and evil; we are not like an alloy. When we are righteous, our righteousness can be as pure as God’s. How do we know? Go back to Genesis—and see that we are created in God’s image. We have the capability of being like Him. But because of our sinful nature, we can’t keep it up all the time. At times we rebel against what we know to be the truth.

Rebellion

Understanding human behavior is much simplified if you know that we are in rebellion against God. He is merciful and compassionate (and if not we’d see a lot more lightning strikes). But He has a rebellion on his hands.

You think not? Let’s take this into down home cooking. When you are “plump” your doctor will soon tell you that you need to go on a diet. Now, eating a chocolate bar is a matter of will. You can say no. It’s an easy word to pronounce. You know the right thing to do—but the chocolate bar keeps calling your name, doesn’t it? Immediately after this indulgence, you promise yourself that you will never do that again. It doesn’t take too long for “never” to expire. The more often you indulge, the more you bulge—and regret it.

The usual question at this point is, “What can we possibly do about it?” But that question presupposes one condition: that there really is anything we can do about it. Pitchmen for all kinds of diet pills get rich when we try to do something about it. If you want the right answers you must first ask the right questions. The right question? “What can God possibly do about it?”

At first the question seems rather simple. God can do anything, therefore God can fix this. Please remember: any idiot can place the words “God can” in front of something stupid. Can God decree that yellow will be round on Tuesdays and square the rest of the week? God, the Scripture tells us, is not the author of confusion. So we recognize that God does not act like a circus magician. He must be true to his character.

Solving it ourselves

When you present this to smart people, their reaction is pretty predictable. “I can handle it myself.”

·         Some see God the cosmic bean counter. If the good things I do add up to more points than the bad….. It doesn’t make any difference—God is pure righteousness. You have to be perfect.

·         “Well, at least I’m better than (insert name of local louse here).” God’s answer to that is, “So what. You’re both sinners.”

·         “I’ll just pretend I didn’t know about this. God wouldn’t blame me for my ignorance, would he? Especially when I’m so sincere?” Yeah, right.

There are a few more choice methods for this—but they all end the same way. Not one of us can handle this problem.

The Divine Dilemma

Now you see the problem that man’s rebellion poses for God:

·         His loving, merciful and compassionate side wants to take us into his arms and tenderly bring us to perfection. He knows we can’t do it ourselves.

·         But his righteous side says this cannot be done: sinners must pay the penalty for their sins. And as we saw in the Garden, the penalty of sin is death.

So what does God do? Does he toast the planet and start all over with some other species? Or does he announce blanket forgiveness—and watch as we take advantage of His good-hearted nature? This is the divine dilemma—how to treat sin as it deserves while loving the wayward sinners. That’s the problem. The solution we shall see in Jesus, the Christ.

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