As a convinced Christian theist, however, I find it regrettable that so many of my fellow believers seem compelled to veer off the road of truth into the opposite ditch, and to be convinced that there is nothing good at all to say about humanity.
Men and women are fallen creatures. God made them in His own image. Good. Innocent. Able to choose the right. A blessed people whom He placed in a utopian environment. But Eve and Adam chose to break the rules. Break fellowship with God. Break their perfect lives into shattered fragments. Break their own innocent natures into a cracked mirror.
And, as every nightly newscast will remind us, our first parents passed this brokenness on to all of us. Sinful natures. Original sin. Radical corruption that affects every part of our beings and our lives. This is why the humanist dream of a godless utopia is forever out of reach.
But, you know, when I hear it said, or implied, that fallen human beings have nothing to offer to God apart from their sin and their brokenness, something in me cringes.
I recently heard a sermon that urged Christians to see unsaved people as more than just “sinners.” We must also see them as “sufferers”--victims of a fallen, troubled, diseased, sin-sick world. The preacher encouraged us to come alongside men and women in their need and their distress the way Jesus did. To resist the tendency to carp on their sinfulness and imply that their suffering was in just payment for God’s broken laws.
The preacher cited the three dubious “comforters” of Job, who tried to counsel and “fix” their suffering friend by urging him to repent of his hidden sins. In effect, all their long-winded platitudes accomplished was to push Job close to the edge of insanity, almost forcing him to call God’s justice into question, demanding an audience in which the Deity should explain Himself!
When I read the words of Scripture, however, I see humanity in an additional light: another dimension besides those of “sinner” and “sufferer.” The Bible also describes us as “salvageable.”
I want to be careful here. I’m not claiming that God has elected to save and redeem people based on some virtue of righteousness He sees in us. Both the psalmist and the apostle have rightly said, as they explained God’s view of man: “There is none righteous; no, not one.” Jesus Himself told one of his admirers: “There is only One who is good, that is God.”
But Jesus also told the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar: “God seeks such worshipers, who worship Him in spirit and in truth.” If there is none righteous...and if no human being is good in His eyes, where is God going to find the worshipers He is seeking?
Obviously, He is looking on at least some human “sinners” and “sufferers” as “salvageable.” In other words, we humans have at least one thing to offer God besides our sin and our brokenness…
We are potential worshipers.
No, God doesn’t need our worship. He got along just wonderfully for all eternity past without it. And yet, for some mysterious, incomprehensible reason, He desired to create, permit the fall of, and then redeem through the saving work of His Son, a worshiping company of people like us!
For some strange, jaw-dropping reason, this will bring Him joy, glory, and satisfaction.
Not one of us has started out with even the faintest desire to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In fact, we begin our lives totally self-centered and beating a path away from God with dust flying in our wake. But each of us bears the mark of our Creator’s image--cracked and warped as it might be. Each of us experiences God’s “common grace,” including a hunger for justice, an appreciation of beauty, an admiration for orderliness, among other things.
When post-diluvian people began building the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the Lord came down and “confused their language” so that they would scatter over the face of the earth. The explanation was very interesting: God said, “if they have begun to do this, nothing they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Obviously, a united mankind would have only enhanced and hastened their degeneration into more heinous sins.
Yet, along with that motive, I suspect another grudging implication: The god-like capability of humanity needed to be harnessed and channeled by a direct act of their Creator, or else it would have led to a situation similar to the pre-flood civilization. The one God decided had to be wiped out, save for Noah and company.
There is something grand about man. Even fallen man. David considered the vast, spangled heavens above and wondered aloud to God: “What is man, that You are mindful of him, or the son of man, that You visit him?” In all that vast expanse, why is it that its even vaster Creator would devote such attention to the human race?
Why is the sin of people so offensive to Him? Why would He create an eternal hell for those who refuse to repent, where their crimes will be dealt with through countless ages? Why would He send the Son of His eternal love to die for wrath-doomed sinners like me?
Not for anything He saw in me that deserved His mercy and grace…
But at least...at the very least...He saw in me a potential worshiper, did He not?