And You’re Surprised?

The end depends upon the beginning. That seems reasonable enough, right? If it’s reasonable, then why are many people surprised at the results of wrong beginnings? Yesterday, I went forurl a long run. At the end of my run, I entered a gym where I work out when I’m away from home. Upon entering, I was flooded with images of the massacre by 26-year old Chris Harper-Mercer. Multiple people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon had just been murdered. Based upon some eyewitnesses to the murders who’d barely escaped death, Mercer had a track record of hatred, especially for Christians. Sound familiar? Are you still surprised at the violence? Now, I have no idea what worldview Mercer lived by. That is not my main concern here. What is my main concern, however, is how many people express surprise at violence perpetrated against others. Before someone objects that I’m inciting violence, read on. I am not inciting violence; I’m asking readers to go deeper. I’m asking you to examine your view of man, your anthropology. Why? Because the end depends upon the beginning. If you have an incorrect view of man’s nature as fallen, you will continually be surprised when violence invades our lives. However, if you have a correct view of man’s fallen nature, a correct anthropology, you will still grieve, yes, but you will understand why violence occurs with such frequency.

 It makes all the difference in how you view human nature. What is man like? Are we born good? Is man’s nature by disposition one of love, unselfishness, magnanimity, self-sacrifice, and humility? Do those terms describe what you see and read each day on your TVs, computers, and newspapers? Do you have to teach your children how to misbehave, since they are so innocent, so good? Don’t you remember someone having to teach you how to lie, how to be selfish, how to make the world about you? Nor do I. But why? It’s because man is fallen. Therefore, we ought not to be surprised when fallen and unredeemed people act in accordance with their nature. We should be surprised if people were good by nature, but we’re not. We’re fallen. We are sinners. We need to be redeemed from our fallen state. The end depends upon the beginning. If we begin with the presupposition that man is good by nature, then it would make sense to be surprised at violence. But if we begin with the admission that man is evil by nature, then we may understand occurrences like yesterday in Roseburg, OR, and Sandy Hook, NJ, and Virginia Tech, and Fort Hood, TX, and Aurora, Colorado, etc. The end depends upon the beginning. View man’s fallen nature correctly, then we can begin to address the answer.

The Bible uniquely addresses the issue of man’s nature. Unredeemed man is, according to Scripture, wicked and a deceiver: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 ESV). Jeremiah wrote in the 600s B.C. But Moses penned the same description of man’s nature thousands of years prior: “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” (Gen 6:5 ESV). But perhaps this description of man’s nature changed with New Testament writers, right? Surely, we have progressed. Listen to Paul in his epistle to the Romans, written in the 50s A.D: “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:9b-18 ESV). Now ask yourself this question: Which view of man’s nature is more accurate? Which view corresponds to what you see with such frequency?  The end depends upon the beginning. Understand man’s nature, and only then will we understand his behavior.

But here is the good news. God offers us fallen sinners a way out. It’s not a program; it’s not therapy; it’s not turning over a new leaf; it’s not trying to be a better you tomorrow. It’s repentance of our sins and looking to Jesus as the Savior. Here is the good news in microcosm: “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus, God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21 ESV). The end depends upon the beginning, at least in most things. But because of Christ, all who flee to him in repentance and faith, have transformed natures. It’s not because we’d ever reform our own natures; we wouldn’t. It’s not because we are smarter than our neighbors; we’re not. It’s because God circumcises our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh. Scales fall from our eyes. We see that this gospel redeems our fallen nature and fits us for heaven, all because of God who came to seek and save the lost. The end depends upon the beginning, and the beginning and the end of all things is found in Jesus.

 

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