“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” —Romans 5:12
Sweat stains on laundry, dirt tracked into the house, our individual or collective carbon “footprint” left upon nature. We leave our mark and track wherever we go, whatever we do. The idea that our imprint upon the world could be a mostly negative impression is an unwelcome assault to the modern mind.
Yet, try as I might, much to my unending frustration, I have not been able to win the ongoing war against being forced to clean up after myself. Why can’t I just stay clean? If I don’t continually keep picking up my dirty socks, cleaning my dirty dish, blowing my running nose, washing my greasy hair, picking up the tool I dropped in the garage, washing the mud from my car, recycling my cans, glass and plastic, regularly taking out my garbage, and so on, my “natural” imprint upon this present reality naturally turns into a monstrous impression upon this world.
Why are we actually forced to work against the natural result of our living or else our lives turn into messy, unnatural, dumps of ugliness? Working against degeneration, throughout all of our lives, is inherent in this earthly reality — whether we like it or not.
We might be horrified at the inescapable truth that we are messy by nature, but just do your natural toiletries outside on the front lawn for a while and watch how the neighbours react as your natural deposit mounds into its natural formation. We are born messy, and must, out of necessity, clean our mess or we are doomed.
The reality of our natural plight is empirical evidence (irrefutable evidence, in my judgment) toward revealing not only our natural tendency but also our spiritual tendency — the tendency within the human soul toward sin (hamartia, what the apostle Paul defines as the tendency toward moral degeneration in Romans 7). Just as we constantly have to be cleaning up what our natural bodies continually create, we also have to be constantly cleaning up the spiritual mess our souls continually create — the lustful thoughts, the jealousy, the impatience, the unkind words, the gossip at work or on the street, the desire to blame the government for every possible problem life throws at us, the constant, daily, nagging, unending necessity to reassess the “natural” way we feel like acting and what we would really like to say to that so-and-so.
So, what is the upshot? Do I merely want to argue the doctrine of original, and inherent, sin against all the well intentioned, but utterly mistaken, religious optimists. God forbid! I hope not.
My prayer, by grace alone, is not to create pessimism that leads to hopelessness. By grace, I am praying that the resurrection mercy of Christ would turn our hearts to His eternal, sacrificial, love and grace for help and salvation — for forgiveness, life, hope and even joy.
My prayer is that we would not solely be driven by unrelenting need for spiritual help but that we would be won over by His pursuing grace that calms our hearts and minds in the middle of the messes we struggle to keep cleaning, the grace that lays its hand upon our shoulder, the grace that whispers, “It’s OK, it will all come out in the wash.”
This grace is what holds us and carries us in hope as we keep cleaning up after ourselves, until at the end of the end of all the ages of this withering reality we call our world, the final mop up will be over when, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:4-5)
Ron Benty is the pastor of the Wynndel Community Church.