We began a home study of Hebrews this week. Eight friends showed up to join in. One, Don, is a master at asking the unanswerable question. This week it was, “Do you see any improvement in human nature as a result of being Christian?” So, how would you respond? I’ll tell you what I said. “No.”
If by human nature we mean that we have the innate capacity to grow toward holy perfection and, by virtue of being Christian, have made some progress in the last two thousand years, then I don’t think so. I cannot see that our nature, our essence so to speak, has changed at all. In our nature as individual members of the species we are just as good and evil as we ever have been, and I believe there is plenty of each. But in Christ we have been freed from enslavement to our nature and are given the opportunity to begin experiencing something of the nature of the perfection of Christ that has been poured upon us. It probably could be poured into us but I think we are reluctant to let that happen, and so we restrict the pouring to a few drips at a time, at least that’s been my own experience.
If anything about our nature has experienced any change it is only because it has been transformed, at least in some small part, by Christ’s nature that is in us.
I am very much aware of those who claim to have been slain by the Holy Spirit, baptized into the Spirit, in lives totally transformed by Christ, but I have seen little evidence of that in the everyday lives of those whom I know personally. Therefore, I’m with James and more than a bit suspicious.
On the other hand I do think that society has made significant moral strides, and that Christian faith and doctrine has had a lot to do with that. Moreover, two thousand years of Christian thinkers who have deeply probed the lessons of scripture have guided many followers of Jesus toward lives that are more consistent with his teachings. Yet it remains that fulfillment of holy perfection is not something that we can achieve in our personal lives or social history.
So what then is the role of the Christian in society? It seems to me that role is to be agents of God’s grace in a world that needs that grace and truly does benefit from it. I’d be interested to read what you have to say.
By the way, knowing Don, I suspect that his next question will be, “Do you have to be a Christian to receive the grace of God poured upon you or in you?” My answer would be no, but it’s still the grace of God in Christ and through Christ that is at work.