Humans are not complex creatures. Humans are so utterly simple. Humans are unrighteous. Humans are cursed with human nature.
As part of an outreach event for my fellowship this week, we surveyed people about the troubling and disruptive question of “What do you think abut human nature?” There were 4 options for them to choose from on a cork board: ‘mostly good,’ ‘mostly bad,’ ‘broken,’ and ‘neutral.’ I was not surprised to see many had answered that we are mostly good, but I was shocked to see many had also said that we are broken.
I started reading through Romans this week because of my favorite passage of the Bible, Romans 8. I wanted to understand the context for chapter 8, which centers on what our life is like in the Spirit, free from condemnation. What I already love about Romans is how unapologetic it is in seeking to pierce us with the truth about who we are. Paul even says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes [Romans 1:16]. His zeal for the gospel is why he’s able to write such a raw letter to the Romans about how we are to be examples of Christ – he wants them to be just as zealous, if not more, for the sake of the gospel, which means denying themselves of all their growing worldliness.
We are broken people. This is a fact that we acknowledge about not only ourselves when we become Christians, but also about other people as well, about human nature. We are broken because there is something to be fixed, something that was good in the first place. The first chapter of Romans already hits upon this fact pretty hard. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator [Romans 1:24-25]. Because we do not change our ways, because we do not even acknowledge who God is, God allows us our human nature to prevail and take ahold of us – He ‘gave us up’ to our twisted selves (v. 26, 28).
Paul calls us ‘inventors of evil’ (v. 30). Really, what does this even mean. This means that not only do we sin, but we’re good at it; we’re inventive, creative, the best. We always find new ways of deceiving other people or even ourselves, hating other people, and disobeying. Our problem stems from the fact that we are programmed to be sinful because we exchanged the truth for a lie in hopes of gaining new life, but all we actually get is the just penalty of our sins.
I found it shocking that so many people we surveyed seem to be aware that there is brokenness in us, but don’t seem to be looking to a source outside themselves to fix the brokenness. I’m not sure why I was so surprised, when I do it myself all the time. I try to use anything in this world to try to distract me from my brokenness. If this life is like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, I’m no longer chained to the cave wall, but I’m about to walk out the door to freedom and I keep looking back at the wall of shadows because I still think that’s the true reality. But this is exactly human nature – we are indecisive and always looking back, wondering if we made the right decision to follow Christ when the cost feels too high. He knew who we were and didn’t hesitate to pay the cost.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [Romans 1:22-23]