Why We Must Understand Our Darkness
I was pretty sure he was coming for me, so I kept a loaded 20 gauge under my bed. I figured he'd come in through my window, and hopefully I'd get to it in time.
In high school I had an irrational fear of a serial killer called the Railcar Killer. He was a Mexican guy who traveled by train and killed people for no reason. That's what made him scary - as with all serial killers - an indiscriminate love for violence. Cormac McCarthy has explored this kind of bloodlust in his books, from Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men to The Judge in Blood Meridian. Senseless violence is evil personified, and we have much reason to fear it.
People fear all sorts of things in this category: snakes, the boogeyman, terrorists, etc. We fear the unknown outside us which can kill what's inside us.
But we forget to fear what's inside us.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
What utopians have gotten wrong is the idea that we can create a perfect society. It is impossible. The reason is because we might create the perfect political system, and a perfect environment with roses on every windowsill and clean food and what not, but the problem is that we would still be there. We would burn the place down because of our sinful hearts.
We modern Christians have done a horrible job of owning our badness. No one likes to talk about depravity or sin. That's old Puritan stuff, right? Hellfire and brimstone, right? Beating your breast and hair shirts and all that lament. But it isn't. Understanding our depravity is a fundamental aspect of a clear-eyed world view.
While a person with new Christ-cleansed heart is on the path to godliness, and with some time and God's grace we progress toward holiness over time, it does not change the fact that there are seeds of evil which would love to sprout inside of us.
We must know this.
I've seen good people do and say horrible things. I have daydreamed stuff I'd never want exposed. We are all capable of all kinds of evil that we don't want to admit or think about.
Sick People Need a Doctor
My wife recently had our third child, and that means she was constantly at doctor's appointments. Appointments for him, appointments for her. And she was constantly waiting. Doctor offices are never on time. You do redundant paperwork with a germ-smeared pen with the logo of some drug and then sit in a seat upholstered in the 80s and look at your phone while wondering what everyone else is in there for. And you wait.
If we admit our depravity, it means we recognize our need for spiritual healing. If we understand our heart sickness - and we should - we will be rather frantic to find healing. We need heart transplants, and we need them now. We cannot sit idly by in the waiting room and look at our phones.
Jesus didn't come to heal the buttoned up righteous people. Those people actually don't exist anyway, but there are plenty of people who act like they're totally fine. And thus, they seek no healing. They see no need for a Healer.
As for the rest of us who recognize our darkness, we need help to address our sinfulness. We know our sin drives a wedge between us and God. We know we are capable of hurting people and completely wrecking our lives. We are in grave danger.
And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
An Overwhelming Light
Christianity as self-help is not Christianity. It is something else. The assumption with self-help is that we're naturally good and need to find the good within. The assumption with Christianity (and which history proves to be true) is that we're naturally bad and need to find the good without. It is not self-deprecation to recognize our sinfulness anymore than it is self-deprecation to admit you have cancer.
I have this closet in my house that likes to kill lightbulbs. Something about the wiring in the lightbulb housing makes bulbs last for a very short time. I believe our spiritual health is a lot like that. We get fired up after hearing a Sunday sermon, but by the time dinner comes that night we return to who we used to be. Our bulbs go out. It's not that the light of Christ doesn't last, it's that our wiring is jacked up. Hence, we must daily pursue spiritual disciplines to provide fresh light.
We need to read God's Word and remember what Jesus has done for us.
We need to pray and talk to God about our problems and hopes and dreams.
We need the strength of good friends and family who will provide good counsel.
We need to belong to a church body of like-minded people who together seek the light of the gospel of Christ.
Darkness and light cannot coexist in equal quantities. The light completely overwhelms the darkness. And the reason we know light is glorious - take the sunrise, for example - is because we've seen the darkness.
We have to know our darkness if we want to appreciate the light of Christ.