Original Blessing

31 12 2014

Yesterday afternoon I was on my way into Washington, DC, roughly 8 miles from where I live in Alexandria, VA, and the traffic was backed up as usual. Roadwork on 395 has been the norm since long before my wife and I moved here 18 months ago. But yesterday, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting it, I was infuriated. It was December 30th, at 2:30 in the afternoon, going into the city, and traffic was supposed to be nominal. So when I discovered two lanes were closed, and that the average speed was less than 25 mile per hour, I was disgusted. But when I was cut off by some rogue, woman in an SUV from Maryland, my heart began pounding so hard I thought I was going to have a heart-attack!It really shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was; and so I laid on my horn long enough to make my wife blush. And when I was finally able to pull up alongside the deviant to give her one of my ‘looks’, my daughter in the back seat spoke to me the way a parent speaks to an angry and disobedient 3-year old.

Now why do I allow you see into this side of my heart — the side that I usually reserve only for those who are closest to me? Because I want you to know that I know I am a sinner. I know that anger sometimes gets its hold on me and doesn’t want to let go until it pours out its wrath on whoever is around me. Bitterness, lust, and jealously too often raise their heads in my life, and I become more interested in “talking the talk” than “walking the walk!” I have people in my life who I do want to forgive, and people I don’t even know who I’m quick to judge and resent.

Further, when I look at the world around me, the sin that I see often overwhelms me. I agree with whoever it was who said that ‘sin is the one theological concept that really doesn’t need to be proved.’ One needs to only look at the condition of humanity throughout history in order to discover the reality of peoples’ brokenness. And this sin that does indeed abound, destroys individuals, families, communities, and nations. Its effects are psychological and sociological, relational and environmental, spiritual and theological.

But. . . is humanity totally depraved? Certainly not. Is there a sinful stain on our very nature that separates us from God from the moment we are born? I don’t think so! Is the Church’s doctrine of this thing called “Original Sin,” the supposed defining mark of those created in God’s image, so theologically damning that it can only be removed by appeasing an angry God, who ransoms our tarnished souls by some kind of blood sacrifice? Hell, no!

However one my read the creations stories of Genesis, when God looks at people we are proclaimed to be ‘very good!’ And that friends is our ‘original nature’. Do we stray from it? Of course we do. But that does not negate the original blessing the comes with our birth. And to anyone who is looking at the world and prone to want to only use the events of 9/11, the recently released report on torture in the US, or to the racism and sexism that continues to plague the cities of our world, as the defining markers of humanity’s nature — all I can say is look harder! Because there is so much more out there. There is so much more to be seen. And there are so many better and more accurate indicators of the condition of the human spirit.

Look at Malala Yousafzai, and her passion and commitment to the education of young women around the world. Look at the nurses and doctors who are putting their lives on the line to care for those with Ebola. Look at the police officers in America’s cities who are risking their futures in order to keep us safe and to maintain the rule of law in this country. And look at the countless prophets of our day, who are quietly and peacefully taking a stand for justice, righteousness, and freedom.

Closer to home . . . look at my brother-in-law, Kim Hartzner, who has given his life to brining aid to those parts of our world where people are suffering as a result of political oppression and institutional greed. Look at my sister and brother-in-law, Kelli and Dave Schaad, who are attempting to make a difference in the lives of the Ugandan people, one child at a time. Look at my friends Deb Hill and Camilla Buchanan who are seeking to meet the medical needs of Kenyan women who do not have the same access to the quality medical care that we Americans are so prone to take for granted.

Friends, if you are prone to look around you and see only the sinfulness of humanity, then all I can say is you need to look harder. Because the sin that you see is miniscule when compared to the compassionate kindness and overwhelming generosity that abounds in our world today. The spark of the Divine that exists in all people is burning brightly, in countless men and women who have given their lives to that which is right and good. And while we may occasionally curse the person who cuts us off in traffic, that is simply NOT the defining mark of our lives, nor the sole reflection of our original state of being.

As we move into a new year, perhaps we might all make a resolution to stop focusing on the sin in the world around us;and to instead recognize and lift up all the goodness that abounds. For it is everywhere . . . and it is what makes life such a great joy and blessing.

So Happy New Year! And to everyone who has allowed me to discover that original blessing trumps original sin all the time — thanks for your example. It reminds me each and every day, even when I’m behind the wheel driving, that God is not finished with me yet, and that in the end, the love and blessing, always win!

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