By Fr. Gavin Dunbar
What’s wrong with the human race? Why is the world always such a mess? We can point the finger – it’s this group, it’s those people, it is this ideology or culture – and sometimes there is some truth to our criticism; but what we are often really doing is shifting blame, demonizing others, all to exonerate ourselves – and that too is what’s wrong with the world. In contrast, the Bible’s account of what’s wrong with the world is radically egalitarian. You know the story: how The Times once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” and received this reply: “Dear Sir: I am. Yours, G. K. Chesterton”. I am what’s wrong with the world. We are what’s wrong with the world. Pogo said: “we have met the enemy, and he is us”. The problem is in human nature itself – not human nature as God made it, but human nature inherited from Adam, in which something has gone badly wrong. The Bible calls it sin, and knowing what sin is, is critical to understanding and practicing the religion of the Bible.
Here’s how we know that sin is in us: God made us the world for us, he made us for himself, and he gave us a law – to love him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, to love our neighbour as ourselves. Objectively speaking, there is nothing more natural than that we should love him as he commands – for he is the good that makes all good things good, the beauty that makes all beautiful things beautiful, the truth that makes all truths true. Moreover, a lover likes nothing better than to think of his beloved – and when he is not preoccupied, that’s what he begins to think of. Yet what happens to our minds when they are not preoccupied? Do we like nothing better than to think of God? Does thinking about God fill us with delight and longing? We love thinking about the things we might get from him – but that’s not loving him, is it? We know what we think of the human beings whose relation to us is all about what they can get from us. We call them exploiters, manipulators, users. So what does that make us toward God? When Paul speaks of our fallen state, of sin, he says, they worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1:25). We are on the wrong side of God’s law, and our lawbreaking is not a technical offence, it is destructive of our right relation to God, and to every creature – other human beings, our own selves, our bodies, and nature itself. The very wells of love are poisoned by sin.
To be continued… [click here to read part 2]
The Reverend Gavin Dunbar is the Rector of St. John’s Church in Savannah, Georgia.
This article was originally published in The Parish Paper of St. John’s Church (March 5, 2017). Reproduced with permission.