Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.
We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.
You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.
When I’m alone.
But that’s when I’m alone.
As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.
“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.
Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.
It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.
Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.
My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.