Tag Archives: Selfishness

The Heart of Mankind

I read this quote by Nelson Mandela posted on Facebook the other day:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

At first glance this quote seems right and a wonderful sentiment. And it is partly true — people can be taught to love and the objects of hatred are often taught. But I’m not sure I agree with the idea that no one is born hating. If no human being was ever born hating then who taught mankind to hate? It had to start somewhere.

In Genesis we see Cain expressing hatred for his brother Abel — hatred so strong it led him to commit the first murder. If Cain was not born with that propensity to hate, then who taught him to hate his brother? Surely it wasn’t his parents, Adam and Eve. What did they know of hatred? Only what they had learned from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but I doubt they would have taught that knowledge to Cain and suggest that it was the better course.

After several generations had passed after that first act of hatred by Cain, the Bible tells us, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5 (NIV). Nothing has changed since that time.

I believe that envy, jealousy, selfishness, and pride, which lead to hatred, are all more natural to the human heart than love. I know that when I once looked into my own heart, this is what I saw. Even now there are times when those feelings can so easily rear their ugly head. I doubt that I am so different from other people in this regard, and yet so many fail to see the defects in their own hearts but want to believe that love comes more naturally to them.

Not only can we be taught to love, we must be taught to love. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Apart from God, and the knowledge of His great love and mercy, the inclinations of the human heart continue to be towards evil. Love flourishes in the human heart and overcomes hatred and selfishness only where love is taught.

Thankfully, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8 (NIV), and He is willing to change the human heart that trusts in Him.

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Easter Is Over. Now What?

Lent is over. Good Friday is history. Easter has come and gone. Now what? If I was one of the original apostles meeting with Jesus after His resurrection, my next move would have been to wait.

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 (NLT).

But I don’t have to wait for the Holy Spirit. He already dwells in me and has from the moment I believed that Jesus died for my sins and claimed Him as my Savior.

Pondering the journey of Lent, through the agony of seeing Jesus on the cross, and joy of His resurrection, I still have to ask myself, “Now what?” If faith in Christ doesn’t change anything about how I think and live, then what is the point?

And so the answer to the question “Now what?” must be that now I let Him change me to be more like Him. I allow Him to change me to be more loving, more patient, gentler, kinder, less selfish.

I have already allowed Him to change me a great deal, but there is more that He can do in my heart and in how I think. On Good Friday, I nailed my sins to the cross, and Jesus desires for me to leave them there. To His cross I nailed fear, lack of trust, selfishness, anger, and unforgiveness. He desires that I move forward in my life with courage, trust, selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness.

So for me the next step I think needs to be to say, in the words of MercyMe, “So Long Self.”

The first time I heard this song I didn’t completely get it. But the more I spend time in God’s Word and in prayer, the more I express to Him a desire for the cross to really make a difference in my life, the more I understand what this song is all about.

I can’t go through life putting myself first. To be more like Christ, I must put others before myself. Just as Jesus laid down His life for my benefit, I must lay down my life for the benefit of others. This doesn’t mean that I must physically die for others (though some people are certainly called to do so), but it does mean I must set aside the selfish desire to improve only my own life and think of helping others. Sometimes that might mean giving up what society tells me are my rights, and it will often require me to trust that the spiritual blessings God will grant me as a result of my selflessness will far outweigh any material blessings I could gain by putting my desires first.

It will also require me to listen closely to the Holy Spirit and follow His advice and promptings. To truly say “so long” to my selfish nature, I must rely on Christ living in me.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT).

Christ died for me and you so that we may live free of sin and the law. He died so that we might be free to live according to His Spirit living in us.

Lent is over. Good Friday is history. Easter has come and gone. Now what will you do?

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What Purpose Is the Law?

Twenty years ago I was a third-year law student, learning the law and preparing for my new career. Twenty years later I do not practice law, though I do use my law degree in my current employment in legal publishing. For a long time I wondered why I went to law school and what God would have me learn from it. I think that it has given me a better understanding of the purpose of the law — both the Biblical law of Moses and the law that governs society.

Let’s take a look at the law in the United States. There are hundreds of thousands of laws at the city, county, state, and federal levels. Many are criminal laws prohibiting certain behavior. Others are civil laws requiring individuals to engage in certain behavior. Some laws are statutory and are created by legislative bodies, or are rules created by agencies that were created by legislative bodies. Other law is based on past court case decisions. Often laws are passed to prohibit a wrong that has been committed. The sheer number of laws on the books in the United States is mind-boggling. It makes the Biblical law of Moses look like a drop in the bucket.

In spite of all of these laws telling us what we cannot or should not do, or what we must do, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates “In 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults.” In the civil arena, millions of lawsuits are filed against individuals, insurance companies, and corporations every year because of a claim that someone has violated someone else’s rights or injured them in some way. Clearly all the laws aren’t really doing what they were designed to do, which is protect people and give them guidance on how to behave in a civilized society.

We spend so many resources trying to create laws to govern how we should act. We are coming up on an election next week in which we will elect legislators, and in some cases judges, to create more laws, or modify or interpret the ones we have. Billions of dollars have been devoted to campaigning for this election and billions more will be spent to pay these legislators and judges to do their job. Unfortunately, in our “civilized” society such as system seems to have become necessary, though not completely effective.

At the core of all of the laws that are passed or handed down by judges are some basic principles that came from the mouth of a Savior. Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. Even today, this is the core of the law: to treat others as you would want them to treat you. If only we as humans would do that, we would no longer need the hundreds of thousands of laws telling us how to act. But instead of doing to others as we would have them do to us, we do to others as they HAVE done to us. We want payback and justice.

It seems the human heart, the human will, does not naturally follow the golden rule. We never have. In the beginning, there was only one rule: “Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” One simple rule designed to protect Adam and Eve from the knowledge of evil, from selfishness and pride that lead to anger and bitterness. When there was that one simple rule, following the golden rule came naturally because they didn’t know anything else. But they broke that one simple rule.

Later God gave ten simple commandments, all designed to protect the Israelites and teach them how to follow the basic golden rule. But they couldn’t seem to obey even those ten simple commandments, and so more detailed rules and regulations were added to clarify and expand on the basics of the ten. Over time, the Pharisees did much the same as we have. They took a simple ten commandments and the other rules and regulations God had given, and they added a whole host of laws to clarify and expand upon them to govern the Jewish people.

Then along comes Jesus to bring us back to the basics, and what is the Greatest Commandment of all:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40.

It seems so simple. Love God and love your neighbor (who is, by the way, pretty much everyone, not just the guy who lives in the house next to yours). And yet the human heart so often doesn’t get it. Oh sure, we love those who love us and those we get along with, but what about those people who really tick us off? We don’t really love them. We don’t even know how. That’s why we create all those other laws to try to control our true nature, which is selfish and prideful. But the law will always fail in its efforts to change who we truly are.

But there is still hope.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:9-11.

The Spirit of Christ changes a person when they truly believe in their need for a Savior and the saving Grace of Jesus. It doesn’t happen all at once, but over time the Spirit rearranges the heart and will of God’s children to truly understand what it means to love your neighbor. The Spirit creates a desire to love your neighbor more and more. The law becomes irrelevant to the extent that you want to do better than the law can proscribe, because the law as humans know it and try to create it can never live up to the Godly standard of true and abiding love.

To be governed by the Spirit rather than the law is the last great hope of humanity. All we need to do is believe, trust, and surrender. Then we will truly love.

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