This post follows on from ‘The Rise And Fall Of : Part 1’
I think the second lesson – that we are good – is far harder for Christians to learn, because we are conditioned to believe that we are sinners and that there is no good in us. But the connection of the two parts of that belief-statement needs examining. It is true that we are sinners, but does that mean we are not good? I am not sure what Angus would say about our being good, from the point-of-view of mental health and dis-ease, but he has got me reflecting on it. God’s statement of his creation was that it was good. In Christ, I am a new creation. Jesus moves from identifying himself as the light of the world, to identifying the community of his family as being the light of the world. We are stars that shine in the universe, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. My identity is not that I was separated from God, but that I have been made one with Christ. God has prepared good works for me to discover and do, since before the world was made. Not only must I put to death the sinful nature, but this is now possible: God does not set us up for a fall.
But there is also a sense in which I have always been good, without denying for one moment my need for someone else who can save me from my insistence on hiding from God and neighbour as an act of self-preservation. Something cataclysmic happened in Eden. As a consequence, God says that the serpent is cursed, and so is the ground...but not the humans. As a consequence, humans will experience success – child-bearing, met desire, bringing forth crops – and failure – pain in child-bearing, oppressing our wives, toil – and each will be used to move us from infancy to maturity. God does not say the human has gone from good to bad: rather, the Trinity in conversation says that the human has become like them in knowing good and evil – but lacking the maturity to handle such knowledge. And so the human is barred from the Tree of Life, not as a permanent situation, but until such time as God himself becomes for us the Tree of Life; not as judgement, but as grace. There is a sense in which I am good not only because I am a new creation, but because I am God’s creation to begin with. Will I choose to listen to the voice of God, who calls his creation good; or to the voice of the serpent, who accuses God of with-holding his likeness from us, of hiding from us for his own self-protection – who accuses God of being a sinner? God delights in us, and he cannot delight in evil.
Why do we need to learn that we are good? Because if we believe that we are fundamentally bad, we will not believe that we are deserving of the gifts God wants to give us. We will believe God to have made a mistake, and will hide from him. And also because we will not be willing or able to offer ourselves as an acceptable sacrifice, only as a blighted offering. Until we learn that we are good, through experiencing success in some area, we will not be able to rely on God and partner with him. But as I said, Christians struggle to accept that they are good.