May 26, 2006
I've written so much on this before, but it seems to keep coming up.
I'm a firm believer that we are essentially good creatures. Note that good does not mean perfect. I believe we sin, we need forgiveness, and we need God's grace.
AND… we are essentially good. Most of us. Most of the time. Most people I know would rather love than hate, would rather be loved than hated, would rather laugh than cry, would rather do good than bad, would rather help than hurt, would rather help than hinder, and so on.
When posting on a similar vein a few threads back, a commenter asked for a scriptural reference to this and said that the Bible didn't support this view.
This really bothered me. And when I sat down this morning for morning prayer it was on my mind.
Lo and behold, from today's daily office, Ephesians 2:10:
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Now there's a bunch of stuff before this which took some thought for me to get through, about our tresspasses and such. But the essence of this passage is that we are created to do good stuff, and it is thanks to God's grace that we are able to do so.
Now whether we are essentially bad and through God's grace we are given the goodness we need to be good creatures or we are essentially good and it is the leftover goodness of our "original" grace that keeps us good is completely irrelevant.
What is important is that we are good. The church's historical pre-occupation with focusing on our worthlessness is not good for us. It is denigrating for our self-esteem. It is demoralizing. It instills unhealthy guilt, preventing us from fully living into the wonderful grace and gift of the full humanity that God gave us. That doesn't mean we don't repent. That doesn't mean we don't sin. It just means that we live fully into, and accept, our humanity. AND we seek out and embrace the good things that we do as humans. It is positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement. There is a difference between humility and self-denigration.
I am good. I make mistakes. But I know that my intention is to try and be good. Most people have the same intention. Those that don't– it is our job to pray for them. To try and help them. I am convinced that those people have something broken psychologically. They aren't evil. They are the product of their environment- which isn't perfect. Mostly good, but some better then others. Some people don't get the luck of the draw, if you will. And for those people, we have to have compassion. And mercy. As God does.
Here's my suggestion: Join me in embracing our goodness. And in finding the goodness in others. Even when it is hard. And if you can't find it, pray to find it. Let God be the judge of someone who seems to have no goodness within them, focusing in the meantime on spreading even more goodness in the world, through God's grace and love.