Over the course of raising six children, I was often reminded that how we are naturally inclined to behave is not necessarily how we ought to. As a child growing up on a rural farm with no older siblings to influence me, some of my behaviours just came naturally. For instance, no one ever taught me how to lie, take what I wanted from other children, or physically hit another child when I was annoyed. I was born that way.
Unfortunately, to our great disappointment, my wife and I found out that our own children had these natural tendencies as well. We had to work hard to teach them not to lie, not to take what they wanted from other children, and not hit and push other children.
I seldom agree with Richard Dawkins, but he was correct when he wrote …
… if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals co-operate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.(1)
God never intended us to live according to the way we naturally are, just as no one would want a newborn infant to remain undeveloped. In fact, God says that the ‘natural self’ is only the starting point and is in a state of ongoing moral corruption.(2) There is a primal, base aspect to ourselves that is often in direct conflict with what we know to be morally right.
If I were to affirm my children’s natural dispositions (lying, fighting, selfishness) I would be doing them an enormous disservice. Yet today’s society embraces an individual’s prerogative to affirm whatever they wish with an almost religious fervour – especially in matters pertaining to sexuality. The ensuing effect has created, quite possibly, the most self-centred civilization in human history.
Since it is quite obvious that I cannot give blanket affirmation to the way I naturally am, what can I affirm about myself and others?
I will affirm that God has created each human being in His image and likeness, with a mind-staggering potential that will continue into eternity. The way we naturally are is only the starting point, not the goal. Nonetheless, our amazing potential will only be realized if we become spiritually reborn by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. When we take this step of faith, a new nature is created within us. Unfortunately, the ‘natural self’ will remain with us until our death, and cannot be changed for the better – so attempting to reshape it is futile. Instead, on a daily basis, the spiritually reborn person can choose to set aside the natural self and live according to the new, supernatural self created within by God for good works.(3)
If someone were to affirm the way I naturally am, they would be encouraging me to remain at the starting gate – forfeiting what God created me to be, thereby dehumanizing myself to a great degree in the process. It is for this reason that I cannot affirm the way I naturally am. Instead, I prefer to look forward to what I am becoming in my relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ.
As C.S. Lewis so aptly stated …
The dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. (4)
You must decide which of the two destinies will be yours … will you affirm the way you naturally are and forfeit what you were created to be – or will you accept Christ’s salvation from the consequences of the way you naturally are and receive His gift of a new nature that is created to live forever?
(Edit: Several minor changes in wording, recommended by a grammarian friend, August 3, 2016)
- R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
- Ephesians 4:22
- Ephesians 4:23,24 and 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
- C.S. Lewis, ‘The Weight of Glory’