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4/17/2006

HUMAN NATURE 101 FOR REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t get it. Neither does Al Franken. George W. and Bill Clinton are seemingly just as clueless.

I was raised by Republicans. My father volunteered for Vietnam and my great uncle, the four star general, presided over the draft during that conflict from his office at the Pentagon. I was taught that the military is always too small, unions are always evil, government is always too big, anyone can succeed if they work hard, everyone has a God given right to own an automatic weapon, murderers should be killed and rapists should be raped, and that tax cuts are always good because if the American people have more they’ll share more.

My wife was raised by Democrats. At least one of her parents was against Vietnam. Her relatives were preachers and vegetarians and early recyclers. She was taught that the military is always too big, unions are good, government needs to do more to help people succeed in America, no one needs an automatic weapon unless they’re up to no good, murderers should be locked up for life and rapists should be rehabilitated, taxes should be raised on the wealthy so the poor can have housing and groceries and health care.

Our parents may have been wrong. Not in their politics but in their understanding of human nature - if their politics had roots that deep.

Republicans and Democrats, if they’re serious enough about their philosophy, truly believe most human beings can be trusted. Most people are inherently good. It seems that way at least doesn’t it? Each party trusts most people – just not the same people.

Republicans trust corporations, the rich, the middle class, the gun owner, the soldier. Most folks, they must figure, are in these categories and they can be trusted to do the right thing. The few – the poor and the criminal, for instance, can’t. So stay out of most people’s way, their rule might read, and let most people keep most of their money and most people will take care of the few people who need most of the help.

And Democrats trust the hungry, the poor, the unemployed, the uneducated, the middleclass, the union worker, the career politician, and the elderly. And most folks, they figure, are in one of these groups – or will be someday – and can be trusted to do the right thing. The few – the wealthy business owner, for instance, can’t. So legislate and fund most people’s way when they need it and let most people benefit from the prosperity of the few and before long we’ll all be equal...mostly.

Both wrong. No one can be trusted.

Guns go off daily in passionate rages. Welfare benefits are exchanged for drug money. Enron taught us the rich don’t always look out for the little guy. And The Methodist Children’s Home in Waco taught me the little guy, no matter how much assistance he’s given, sometimes chooses poverty and pleasure and the life he's always known over even his own kids.

This is because none of us are born naturally trustworthy, kind, generous people. No, inside every human is the potential for every kind of evil. We’re born with the seeds of it buried in us. Some have those seeds fertilized by wealth and opulence and others by poverty and racism. But it’s there in all of us. Depravity is a pernicious weed climbing the walls of every heart. A philosophy of governance or religion blind to that fact is not dealing in reality.

But there was a wiser ruler born two thousand years ago that both parties in our system have neglected to follow well. Jesus taught a kingdom that begins in the heart (Luke 17:19-21), where the seeds of corruption sprout.

When He died on a Roman cross, descended into Hell, and walked out of his tomb seventy-two hours later he ushered in a new kingdom on earth without flags or politicians. It is a kingdom set up by God installing a throne beside the one evil rules from.

He does not remove our old heart, what the bible sometimes calls our “flesh” or “old nature”, all the ill habits and twisted thought processes ingrained in us from birth. Instead he places right beside it, under it actually, in a deeper place, a new "heart" or will, mind and emotions. A Christian then is a walking civil war. Inside her remains the old way of living and being. But offsetting the old her is the new her: the desire and ability to think, choose and feel perfectly.

Let me shift analogies away from agriculture to technology - that thing you're reading from right now. Imagine a person as a computer. Inside that computer is a hard drive with certain operating instructions coded into it. Let’s say it runs Windows. Those instructions are something like “When X then do Y and then crash half the time.” And so every time X happens the computer naturally, because of it’s programming, does Y and often crashes. God then switches to the Mac OS. (Come on, you know God uses an Apple – He’s a creative type.) But instead of erasing the hard drive before installing the new operating system, he just installs it beside the old one.

This is no ordinary computer. It can run two operating systems at once – BUT it has to have a default system chosen. It has to know which one you’ll see and use first when you boot up each day, which one is primary for you. So God goes into the system preferences and unchecks the old. It’s not running things anymore. And he checks the new. It’s in charge now. It’s the default.

I’m the same way now. I have new emotions, will and mind and they are my core, my default setting. My old way of thinking, willing and feeling is there if I choose to use it but at my core, no matter what bad choices I make, my primary coding is new. My old code - bound to one operating system - has been replaced by a new one. (1 Corinthians 5:17)

Paul laments in Romans 7 that even he got angry with himself and wondered out loud why he didn’t do the things he knew he was supposed to do (the new nature) and did the things he knew he shouldn’t be doing (old nature).

And Republicans and Democrats – and I so many times – don’t get this. Or we don't act as if we do. We create programs and expectations for human beings as if most of us are born somehow running an operating system called benevolence or selflessness or self-control. And we just aren’t. None of us are unless Jesus saves us, straps us to his work bench and installs a new set of instructions that make us hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and move us to obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:27.

So much attention is paid to our being saved by Jesus from the punishment of hell in the future that I wonder if we've too quickly forgotten our being saved from thinking, choosing and feeling like hell today. Only God can remind us of who we are now as Christians: new creations, part old, primarily new. Only Jesus saves us from the rule of our old heart and gives us a fresh one, and with it new possibilities.

Jesus saves.

Related posts:
LIKE JESUS SAVES YOU KNOW?
TRUCKS AND HELL

16 Comments:

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I ran a big big risk in talking about politics here. Let me remind everyone before any bickering can break out that I'm indifferent to political parties. I am equally dismissive of both major parties in the US. Your political affiliation is not the subject of this post - not at all the point. Politics is only hook. Made you look.

The point is that humans cannot be trusted. We are all busted. And Jesus saves us from the bustedness by giving us a new heart that works in a fundamentally different way.

So comment on politics all you want - that could be fun - but I felt I needed to preemptively ask for kindness before things got rolling. I didn't mean to step on anyone's political toes - just your theological ones ; ) If you start defending Bush or Clinton I'll delete your comments...or just taunt you publicly.

DOH!! Old nature kicking in.

Alrighty, enough lecturing. Have at it. Looking forward to reading your thoughts and questions.

4/18/2006  
Anonymous c long said...

And deeper still we go. Beautiful and again, dead on. I think we also need to daily, first thing, reject the old, choose the new and ask for the molding no matter where it takes us. There's that word choose again. If I don't daily choose to follow Him, I end up following the course of the day, which can take me places I may not have gone had I surrendered all in the a.m.

4/18/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Right on again Shaun. Politics has nothing to do with our nature, only sin. While it is a struggle to say the least for me to die to my old nature everyday, I'm thankful that the new nature, the "Apple" is stronger, more capable, and it's creator is capable of overcoming my old self.

Beth

4/18/2006  
Blogger Suzanne said...

As my dad has told me on numerous occasions, Republicans and Democrats are the right and left wing of the same buzzard...

That aside you couldn't have said it any better. I like to think there is more to God than just being saved from hell. The deeper I dig the more I find he saves me from myself.

4/18/2006  
Anonymous jwise said...

I'm sorry, Shaun, but I have to disagree with one minor point. I'm pretty sure, since Jesus' entire mission on earth was to set us free from sin and death and shackles and yokes, Jesus probably would use Linux -- open source and free!

Okay, just kidding about that. I agree with your post as a whole, and especially your last paragraph where Satan has us focused on "being saved from Hell" but never anything about "take up your cross, die daily, and follow me". The gospel of today (though it's not really a gospel at all) says you can have this world AND the next world. It's a message of incredible selfishness... but we buy it because, "Surely God wants us to have EVERYTHING!"

I thank God for music and writing like yours that calls black black and white white. Sadly, though, God's prophets have no more chance in today's world than they did with Israel thousands of years ago. Continue to teach truth; God's remnant will hear and obey :)

God bless.

4/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Wow, you got remnant, prophet, gospel and Satan all in one comment. That's spiritual.

4/18/2006  
Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

Excellent post, Shaun -- and I'll admit right off, since you invited us to, I'm a little bit of a political animal. And honestly, the Holy Spirit has convicted my heart about this, and what you've written is an excellent reminder of the real Truth about the governments of man vs. the Kingdom of God.

So, here goes. My experience and opinions are likely very similar to many "conservative Evangelical Christians" in the U.S. today. Without going into individual issues, you've nailed it pretty well with your list of positions on Republican vs. Democrat viewpoints, or "conservative vs. liberal", as it's often framed. I'd say the Republican party tends to be the dominant party of those in my camp, who share my viewpoint on many issues. The Right to Life (anti-abortion) issue is likely the single most dominant issue that makes a sincere Christian first feel at home with a conservative Republican viewpoint. I know that this is not a slam-dunk issue even among Christians, as many may feel that it's not the government's job to dictate morality and conscience through laws. But that's how the issue generally tends to end up dividing people, as far as Republican vs. Democrat goes. There are also things like school prayer, Nativity displays at Christmas time, and other issues relating to a Christian person's ability to freely live for and express devotion to Jesus, without the government trying to restrict this freedom.

But lately, as I noted above, God has really been working on my heart regarding the futility of getting my passions too entangled in political causes. I find that it ends up feeding my sin nature, not edifying me spiritually, because I feel anger and even hatred toward "political opponents", and I feel some sort of phony righteous indignation toward those who disagree with me, without even considering that neither position on most issues is inherently right or wrong in politics. Ultimately, all of creation is groaning in pain, waiting for King Jesus to sit on His throne on this earth, and until that time, we don't have to guess that man's governments will go from bad to worse -- because it's already written how the story ends, and it's not a good ending when Man exalts himself as a god on earth.

So for me personally, this means I've been spending much more time reading my Bible and praying, and helping out people, both Christians who need edification and support, and the lost, who need to know about Jesus. I have much greater peace and joy when I'm focused on Jesus rather than the ills of the world. I pray for our leaders, that God will put "good" people in positions of power ("good" being a relative term, I realize) so that we can continue to openly worship and openly proclaim Jesus without fear of government oppression or organized political movements which seek to marginalize Christians. We only have to look around the world today to realize that our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying daily for the sake of the Gospel, and we are still enjoying ease, prosperity, and religious freedom. We have great cause to be thankful, but if we completely disengage from decisions on how we are governed, those things can be taken from us quickly. So while governments of man are temporary and evil, they do affect our daily lives as followers of Christ to some degree.

Sorry this is so long -- I realize people get really worked up about political things. I've painted a big bullseye on myself, so take your best shot. :-)

But I just wanted to be honest about what I think and feel about some of these things because I don't think I'm the only one who has thoughts and feelings about politics as I try to live for the Lord. (And yes, I caught your point that this was not really about politics at all, but you've got to realize that if you troll for a response, you know you're going to get one...)

4/18/2006  
Anonymous jwise said...

Shaun -- Can't tell if your "That's spiritual." was sincere or a tad sarcastic :) I'm just looking to be an encouragement.

Chaotic Hammer -- Great comments. You said very well how politics often give us a sense of self-righteousness. Again, I think it's just one more way Satan keeps our eyes on his kingdoms when we ought to stay focused on Jesus, the author and completer of our faith.

4/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for sharing all that.

Now, you say you've more recently been reading your bible and telling people about Jesus instead of being a "political animal." I'd like to make a suggestion. It's great to read the bible and tell people about Jesus BUT it's swapping oranges for apples isn't it? You don't have to stop doing something about the issues you're passionate about: abortion, for instance. You can do something directly now, instead of indirectly like voting. Not saying don't vote either. What I'm suggesting is being the change you want politicians to bring. So on abortion you can raise money to buy a sonogram machine for a crisis pregnancy center in your area. For poverty you could sponsor a child through Compassion International, volunteer at a shelter, food pantry or orphanage. For drug abuse you can volunteer through numerous organizations to go into classrooms and educate kids on drug abuse. For peace you can lobby nonviolently by funding the Church in the middle east, praying for her, serving through voice of the martyrs and other groups.

My point is the options aren't politics or read my bible. The options are much more numerous. But also expensive.

SG

4/18/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i always like to read your thoughts. I like your honesty. Though the entire post was nice and meaty with lots on the bone there to chew off. .i'll leave that the the pros here. .

Because of a recent personal experience with someone who had hurt me and people i love so much. . 'apologizing' to me because as she put it: "I had to because I was afraid if I didn't, I'd go to hell." (this was one of the leaders of my former church who waited almost 2 years after the damage to attempt to put things right). When she told me that the reason she had me to her house was to avoid being consigned to hell, I felt so invisible, you know? Like it didn't matter to her what all of that had done to me or anyone else, as long as she was saved'!! As you can tell I won't forget that. . and unfortunately it made the whole 'apology' so bogus that I don't even consider it as such.

As I read this whole post, i thought a lot about the book "The Spiritual Man" by Watchman Nee. . with his distinctions between 'soulish' and 'spiritual' and 'flesh' . . the old nature, the new nature. .

4/18/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I'll have to check that out.

4/18/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

It would be worth your while. Its huge, it took me a while to read it - not so much cuz it was huge, but cuz it was so, so heavy. It kinda messed with my head a bit, left me feeling upside down and backwards. . I felt like such a complete beginner when I read it. . and it made me question so much of what i had been 'fed' by my denomination. At point i just got mad and didn't want to finish it. But I persevered after a 'break'. His other stuff is likewise heavy - but out of them all, I found The Spiritual Man to be the extreme challenge.

4/19/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

What was different from what you got "fed" your whole life prior? One example?

4/19/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

one example:
I wasn't taught about the basic operation of the spirit, soul and body in relation to the trinity. Emphasis was mostly on Jesus. . we did't have much time it seems for the Father and almost none for the Spirit. I was taught, "ask Jesus to come into your heart, you're saved and now be good. . and if you mess up, ask him to forgive you." My church culture was one of great physical activity. . doing, doing, going. . but not very much meditating on scripture, even our prayers were out of balance. . we weren't taught listening prayer and there was unfortunately almost no spiritual activity in most of us. The origins of The Salvation Army are amazing. . These pioneers knew how spirit, soul and body worked. . i've read the books. Over the generations it seems that some parts of the Army world - the west - slid into what i described above. For me, reading Watchman Nee, was like starting all over again. Especially his 'sit, walk, stand' I was taught 'stand, walk and run'. I didn't know what it was to rest in what God had done. . I thought I had to do it.

4/20/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Interesting. Now I really want to read his stuff.

Thanks.

SG

4/20/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

If you do read something of his, let me know what you think. I am now re-reading the book we've been talking about here. .

4/20/2006  

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