The Nature of Fallenness
This past week, I got into a bit of an argument online about good deeds and faith and Christian love and all that jazz. The person I was debating essentially quoted Matthew 5:48 (“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”) to make the point that we must strive for holiness in our lives. While I think this is absolutely true, I also expressed my thoughts that this idea really needs to be supplemented by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Basically, living a life of righteousness–pursuing “perfection”, so to speak—is kind of a pointless endeavor in light of the truth of what it means to be a Christian. I mean, I’ve done that my whole life. I’ve gone to church, I’ve tried my hardest to speak graciously and develop positive friendships, I’ve done my best to pursue the will of God in my romantic relationships, I’ve taken the Bible seriously and sought to live out its precepts. But all this pursuit of holiness, all this striving to live rightly has never, for a moment, made me feel closer to God. And I don’t think it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough. I think it’s precisely because I have tried.
Being in a relationship with the Father isn’t about trying to do more or be more. It isn’t about pushing full steam ahead in the works department and crowding out the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit. Being in relationship with the Father is about surrender. It’s about having the humility to acknowledge, as Paul does, how weak I am, and how full of sinful desires I am. I know that’s the truth, whether people on the web agree with me or not.
One thing I thought of, though, as I shared and discussed the 2 Corinthians passage is how much I really believe I’m weak and depraved and all of that. Because, as I said, I’ve striven for holiness my whole life. I generally wish well for others and try to be the best person I can be. How depraved am I, really?
What I’ve come to realize is that my sin nature isn’t as blatant and easy to detect as I’ve always imagined it ought to be. I think my sinfulness rears its head most often in the subtle but very pervasive mindset that the world revolves around me. When I stop and think about how many times a day I think a selfish thought, or fret over why someone else doesn’t see things the way I see them, the realization is just staggering. That tendency to think inwardly, to think about how the words and actions of those around me can best benefit me, is the core of the human nature of fallenness. It’s easy to justify, easy to explain away and write off, but oh dear goodness is it pervasive in my life!
Anyway, the point of all this self-reflection is to say that I am done trying to battle my sin nature on my own. I’m done trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, or doesn’t play a large role in preventing me from embracing the love of the Father. If all this soul-searching has convinced me of anything, it’s that I can’t try to be holy, I can’t try to be righteous, I can’t try to drive away my sinful predisposition, all on my own. Instead, I’m going to focus on surrender, on humbly giving up my will to the grace of God, that his power may be made perfect in my weakness, just as Paul says.