Monday, July 4, 2016

Human Nature

At the end of a long genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry, in the third chapter of Luke’s Gospel (vs 38) there are six words that I underlined long ago:  “…son of Adam, son of God.”  Why did I underline those six words?  I can’t remember why, but the words speak to me today of the littleness and the greatness of human nature.  In six little words I am confronted with a baffling self-contradiction that has disturbed the thinking of so many who have come before me.  We are all sons and daughters of Adam, transient wanderers upon the earth; and yet sons and daughters of God, with a real and unquenchable spark of the divine in each of us!  How can we be both?  They seem to be in desperate conflict, these two opposites:  “son of Adam, son of God.”

“What a piece of work is Man,” writes Shakespeare, taking a moment from his intense concentration on the endless human drama and tragedy that so absorbed him as he wrote his plays, “how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a God, the beauty of the world;” and then, he adds, “and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?”  The mystery of human nature was Shakespeare’s greatest conundrum.  He lifts up one character as noble, almost divine, and the next moment he lifts up a pitiful being, vicious, ugly, and stupid. The mystery, “son of Adam, son of God,” baffled him.  The mystery of our complex human nature haunted his plays.  How is it, he wondered,  that out of the same stuff of human nature there came a Nero and a Jesus of Nazareth?

Poets have pondered the mystery.  Browning writes:
“Sadly mixed natures, self-indulgent, yet
Self-sacrificing too; how the love soars,
How the craft, avarice, vanity, and spite
Sink again,
Sliding into silly virtue, and 
slipping into stupid crime.”

That is who we are.  We are the “sons and daughters of Adam, sons and daughters of God.”  We hold all the opposites within us, big and little, good and bad, lovable and selfish, and a multitude of other contradictions forever wrestling among themselves to gain a foothold.  

Arches National Park
The Good News is that we are accepted for who and what we are—and loved.  God dreams dreams for us—always has and always will.  Our little lives can be better, bigger, more gentle and loving, as we struggle to find (for we have already been found) the Love at the heart of all things (including you and me).

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