A subject that often comes to the surface in my teaching and preaching is the theme of reversal. Life, true life, is a surprise, for it is not what we expect as told to us by our natural selves.
We, in our natural selves, expect the things that matter to be tangible. We desire nice homes, nice cars, and nice toys. I myself, admittedly, have plenty. So . . . we, in our natural selves, expect these things to satisfy, but not only satisfy. In addition, we expect these tangible things to communicate our identity.
Is anyone paying attention? We can never be sure, but even if no one else is noticing, we ourselves are keeping a visible record. In our minds we count our toys and note our bank accounts. Why? Because we buy into the lie that who we are is determined by the value of our possessions. In turn, the abundance of our possessions also communicate something a bit more sinister: the more people and things serves us, the more valuable we become.
It is into this deception of the natural self, or what Thomas Merton calls the “false self,” that our Lord Jesus exposes. The problem we have in our relationship to things and people comes from the nature of sin. Sin, our inheritance from Adam, reverses our God intended relationship to the outer world. Sin means that we are not to serve out of love for God. Rather, we are to be served because we love ourselves. And so . . . as Thomas Merton says, “Since he decided to depend on himself without contact with God, Adam had to become his own poor fallible god.”
When we are god, everything changes. The outside world is only for our benefit and we spend our time and effort attempting to control that outside world to do our own bidding. “I am god, after all. The world should serve me. It must serve me.” If you’re a Christian, you know that this kind of mentality is slavery. When the outside world is supposed to serve us, that same outside world becomes our master, and our lives are spent in utter exhaustion.
Christ came to set us free. He also came to reverse Adam’s sin.
Praise to the Son!